Many music fans may not have heard of the early 90s band Pavement, but many of their favorite bands and musicians have.
With a zany brand of highly melodic pop music and stream-of-consciousness lyrics, the Matador Records band remains one of the most influential of the underground alternative bands today. In critic’s lists of the best of the 90s, albums like “Slanted and Enchanted,” and “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain,” make frequent appearances for their merit of influence and originality.
When Pavement broke up two years ago, many thought that they’d never again hear the beautifully weird brand of music that the band served up with each release.
Then Pavement’s singer-songwriter and guitarist Stephen Malkmus decided that the music world hadn’t heard enough of him yet. He formed a band called the Jicks, and released the album Stephen Malkmus in 2000.
Already, critics are heralding their first album (called, simply, Stephen Malkmus, and featuring a shot of the singer in a symbolic Underdog t-shirt) as one of the best of the new decade.
Songs like “Phantasies,” which talk about the singer’s imaginings of living in the fictional city of Karakatu, Alaska, “Jo-Jo’s Jacket,” which samples and tells about the life of actor Yul Brynner, and “Jennifer and the Ess-Dog,” which tells the poignant story of a high school girl who dates an older man and their struggles to stay together despite the distance between them geographically and age-wise, are some of the catchiest songs since the Jackson 5 stopped recording. But each also explores a part of the human psyche, a theme that Malkmus brought over with him from Pavement.
Moreover, the album, and most of the music that Malkmus has created in his career as a musician, is fun to listen to. The man may not always seem to sing on-key, choosing to chant his lyrics in a Lou Reed style, but they’re always provocative and they’re always backed by well-structured chord progressions and sweet guitar riffs.
All of this has garnered Malkmus much praise from critics and music fans alike. He’s been likened to Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney for his use of nonsensical but intelligently written and organized lyrics, and he’s been called the Jackson Browne of a new generation for his songwriting abilities and shaggy haircut.
Backed by the Jicks (including fellow Portland, Ore. natives Joanna Bolme and John Moen), Malkmus has played to sold-out audiences of Pavement fans and new fans alike all over the country, and has played on several late night shows including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Late Show with David Letterman.
Now, Malkmus will be bringing his original tunes and his jangly back-up band a little closer to Carolina, on Nov. 8 at the Asheville Music Zone.
Those who attend the show can be sure of a night of eventful entertainment from a man and his band who seem to get as much fun out of playing as the audience does from listening.