Buried Treasures is a column dedicated to things we feel have gone underappreciated, often both critically and commercially. // Words: Simon Opie
Released 10 years ago, this fine album launched Stephen Malkmus’ solo career and signalled the end of Pavement who were officially on hiatus. In fact, it was the first album by The Jicks, Malkmus’s new band, but the record label, Matador, insisted it went out under his name. It’s packed with great songs about whimsical subjects like Yul Brenner, being recruited by Turkish Pirates, the Trojan War and various tales of a hippie lifestyle.
Although it got to 124 on the Billboard 200 chart, I don’t recall it causing much of stir and certainly none of the four singles released from the album became ‘hits’. That’s a shame because it’s an album full of brilliant songs and 'Discretion Grove' and 'Jo Jo’s Jacket' – the aforementioned Yul Brenner song ("I’m not who you think I am, I’m the King of Siam") – are two of my favourite singles of all time.
The Jicks – featuring long time collaborator and still Jick, bassist Joanna Bolme and drummer John Moen, alongside Malkmus – are remarkably tight on this album, covering a lot of ground. They play an important role in the zany and uplifting musical texture, also possibly a result of Malkmus getting the weight of Pavement off his shoulders.
The opener 'Black Book' is a driving, grungey rocker that doesn’t really presage where the rest of the album is going. And I guess that’s why I love the album so much; every song is different - clearly SM felt no pressure to produce a coherent statement - and yet they’re all great, highly original songs that tell intriguing stories and are unmistakably Malkmus.
Maybe the breakup of Pavement overshadowed the release of this album because it’s hard to explain how otherwise it failed to launch Stephen Malkmus’ career into the stratosphere. SM has returned to the spirit of this album only with his latest Jicks record, 'Mirror Traffic', with some success, certainly the critics approve, but I think this album remains one of his best and still sounds remarkably fresh. Literally, it’s a work of genius – a very singular and articulate one.
'Stephen Malkmus' by Stephen Malkmus is available to purchase at iTunes, amazon.co.uk etc.