If you answered with “an improvement on Malkmus’ last effort flashing some of his funniest, snarkiest songwriting to date,” then you’re correct. Beck effectively tossed out the Jicks’ 2008 LP, “Real Emotional Trash,” replacing an album constituted of skilled, but too-far-extended guitar jams with one that paces more like Pavement’s “Wowee Zowee,” and draws influence from a healthy variety of sources.
And of course, Malkmus’ satire ranks with his finest, most irreverent Pavement lines: “I know what the senator wants / What the senator wants is a blow job!” he declares on “Senator,” before suggesting the establishment “cattle-prod the working classes.”
“Spazz” lives up to its name structurally, at first fancying itself a middle-school punk song before slipping into a shortened jangle-jam shadowed by some funny aural vocal work (this seems more Beck’s doing than Malkmus’ to me) and finally returning to whence it came.
While “Real Emotional Trash” featured a whole cast of characters, each with his or her own lengthy “Marquee Moon”-inspired soliloquy, “Mirror Traffic” keeps things simpler, often building around a single clever lyric (see: “Long, Hard Book”) or else stringing a bunch of them together to facilitate an indie guitar jam circa 1994 (“Forever 28”).
“Brain Gallop” opens up at a trot, ambling along at a delightful, relaxed country tune pace before picking up speed, lazing around again, repeating the process, and finally resulting in the kind of guitar work Tom Verlaine had in mind when he recorded “Marquee Moon.”
“Asking Price” keeps things vague with potshots at the Internet (“revel in the disconnect”), while “Tune Grief” serves as the delightful teenage country-punk shouter.
“Mirror Traffic” is guaranteed to have at least something for everybody who’s ever cared about Stephen Malkmus. The only problem is that once you hear it, it’s replaced by something else that’s mostly different. Or maybe you’re into that kind of thing.—Matt Carney