Saturday, June 11, 2005

Review: Stephen Malkmus, Face The Truth

Look, there's only so long we Pavement fans can whine about how nothing they've done since compares. And, to be fair, even Pavement wasn't nearly as good as Pavement, if one limits one's idealization of the band to their peak days of Slanted & Enchanted and Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain and accurately acknowledges the increasing weakness of their subsequent albums.

So I won't do it; no whining about the glory days. Which allows me to cut to the good news -- namely, Face The Truth is the best of Malkmus' three solo albums. If his self-titled debut regained some of the hooks lost in Pavement's later days while losing some spark, and the follow-up was a meandering, rather unengaging mess, Truth manages to highlight Malkmus' latter-day showy, almost prog-like fractured guitar noodlings while still recognizing that even the most challenging indie rock needs a hook or two to engage the listener. Plenty of near-pop moments here, and even a few tracks which sound surprisingly reminiscent of that Other Band he used to be in. "Mama" alone is barrel o' laughs, and a few other tunes ("Post-Paint Boy," "Freeze The Saints," "It Kills") are downright lovely, in that wholly off-kilter Malkmus way. As usual, the lyrics are fascinatingly deranged, but unlike last time out, they're tied to actual songs of some worth. No, this will never be in steady rotation in my collection -- even at his best, Malkmus' post-Pavement output is just a bit too stand-offish for constant airplay -- but at least it doesn't tarnish his legend.


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