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Pig Lib
Artist: Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
Format: CD
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On the surface of it, a Stephen Malkmus guitar album would seem like a greatidea: To anyone who noticed—starting around Pavement's 1995 albumWowee Zowee—that he could, when he felt like it, do six-string grandeurat least as well as he did wary-but-caring singing or gnomic-but-nice lyricwriting. To anyone who fell for 2001's Stephen Malkmus on the strengthof the soul-wrenching soloing that capped "Church On White." To anyonewho figured he'd back up his shred-o-rama with the kind of tunes that havealways been his calling card.

To anyone who thought these things: oops. Pig Lib, which credits hisbacking band the Jicks for the first time, is the most resolutely unmemorablething Malkmus has ever recorded. Aside from his instantly recognizable voiceand a couple of melodies—"(Do Not Feed the) Oyster," "Vanessafrom Queens"—that approach his usual knack for popping his bubblegumand making it stick, most of this is snooze city. Almost nothing here registers;even the twisting structure of "Water and a Seat" feels rote. Andwithout great tunes to play off of, not to mention about half as many lyricsas usual, Malkmus' guitar sounds alternately ostentatious and wan, likeit's either trying too hard to make up for the songs' deficienciesor not hard enough to accomplish much of anything. What on earth happened tohim? It took Pavement till its fifth album to get lethargic and complacent;it's taken Malkmus till his second. Congratulations, I think.
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