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Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Sparkle Hard

June 5, 2018

If Jerry Garcia had been a punk, he might have sounded something like Stephen Malkmus. Malkmus plays guitar with the imagination and creativity of a jam band gun slinger with the economy of a punk.

I discovered Malkmus via his solo career vs. his former band Pavement. I like Pavement, but they don’t have an album I like as much as any of Malkmus’ solo albums.

Malkmus has always been a great guitarist. His solo career has many great guitar solos, but this album’s vocals are the standout for me. Few rock artists vocals actually get better with age – Malkmus is one of the rare exceptions. He started his career with a vocal style that was slightly more energetic than Lou Reed. Over time, it has become richer and more varied. On Sparkle Hard his vocals have matured into an instrument that rivals his axe.

The album is a nice summary of what Malkmus does best, yet it feels totally fresh. Per the Matador website regarding Sparkle Hard:

It’s light ’n’ breezy, head-down heavy, audacious, melancholic and reflective, goodtime and bodacious, and it pulls off the smartest trick: it’s both unmistakeably The Jicks and – due to the streamlining of their trademark tics and turns, plus the introduction of some unexpected flourishes (Auto-Tune! A fiddle! Guest vocalist Kim Gordon! One seven-minute song with an acoustic folk intro!) – The Jicks refashioned. If 2014’s Wig Out At Jag Bags balanced the lengthy prog workouts of Pig Lib with Mirror Traffic’s sparky pop moments, then Sparkle Hard bears less obvious direct relation to what’s come before. It also has turbocharged energy and enthusiasm by the truckload.

Malkmus has crafted a slightly twisted Classic Rock album. The arrangements are elaborate without being busy. Malkmus continues to churn out quality material thirty years into his career. His solo career is now twice as long as his more famous tenure in Pavement. If you have not checked Malkmus out, Sparkle Hard is a great entry point.

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From → Music Reviews

4 Comments
  1. I only know his first solo album, how do you think that stacks up against his other stuff?

  2. Giving it a spin right now. never heard of him. Like what I’m hearing so far. Lots of influences coming to mind.

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