If you ask Pavement fans how they felt when the band broke up two years ago, be prepared for an onslaught of groans and sniffles. Hey, kids, cheer up: Pavement may be gone, but indie-rock dreamboat Stephen Malkmus is still with us. On his self-titled solo album, though, Malkmus dashes any hopes for a return to Pavement's gloriously messy, much-loved Slanted and Enchanted sound right from the get-go, peppering songs with "whoa-ohs" and "woo-hoos" straight out of the Beach Boys songbook. Unlike the cut-and-paste lyrical feel of Pavement, Malkmus now dabbles with clear, linear narratives—albeit, strange ones about being a Mediterranean pirate and/or Yul Brynner. (Hints of Malkmus' new direction can be heard on Pavement's brilliant and criminally underappreciated final album, Terror Twilight.) But don't call it a sellout: Malkmus could have easily thrown an album together full of "Cut Your Hair" remakes, which would have been, well, boring. He's taking chances, and they pay off here, from the damn catchy "Jo Jo's Jacket" to the beautiful "Jenny & the Ess-Dog" (which has the hilarious, knowing line, "and off came that awful toe ring"). Through it all, Malkmus charts a dreamy course laced with those renowned, angular melodies we remember so well. So stop yer sobbin'. (Mark Smith)
GIRLS CAN TELL
Spoon—not to be confused with No Knife or Fork—are a fine, elegant, sophisticated pop band from Austin, Texas, though there's nothing particularly Texan or even Austinesque about them, which is actually okay; we're sure to have enough of Texas after four years of Little Dubya scampering around the White House. Spoon have more in common with Bill Clinton, really, in that girls are foremost on their minds. But while Clinton likes to paw at trashy, fringed, ratty-looking women who make Katherine Harris look like a hottie, the Spoon trio prefer merely to sulk and brood over their love lives, something that seems fitting for the current indie-pop generation of half-men. Spoon's fixation, though, is a bit more inspired—and perhaps better thought-out—than Clinton's. On Girls Can Tell—sort of a concept album—they've managed to write some nifty tunes dedicated to girls, embroidering them with simple, gleaming piano riffs and subtle yet purposeful guitar leads. It's difficult to write a song with lines like "I go to sleep and think you're next to me" and "When I walk out, don't follow me" and not come off sounding like Phil Collins, but somehow, Spoon never feel nearly as gooey as they seem on the surface. They've taken the time to create an album in which every song has its virtues, overshadowing all the other indie-rock utensils and becoming a key piece of silverware in the set. (Adam Bregman)
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