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Flux = Rad

By Bret McCabe | Posted 11/21/2001

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks

Nov. 14 at the 9:30 Club, Washington


Anybody who caught Pavement's Terror Twilight tour would be forgiven for wondering who that energetic young man fronting Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks at the 9:30 Club was. During Pavement's last tour, Malkmus looked like he wanted to be anywhere but onstage. (So did the rest of the band, for that matter, save percussionist/jester Bob Nostanovich. And there's nothing more tedious than hearing Pavement's wry pop played by guys phoning it in.

At the 9:30, Malkmus looked invigorated. Fronting a band that began its first-ever tour this past February, he sounded relaxed and, above all, like he was having fun again. It helps that the songs off his self-titled solo debut are playful and more straightforward than those he penned for Pavement. And whereas the Jicks were still feeling their way through the material earlier in the tour, now the band sounds tight and confident, interpreting the songs more than merely playing them as heard on Malkmus' album. The nimble "Jo Jo's Jacket" and its start-stop melody was enlivened by the Jicks' looser approach. "The Hook" received a bass-and-drum-dialog intro, with Malkmus staving off playing its catchy-as-a-cold guitar riff. And the entire band appeared comfortable delving into outright silliness for "Phantasies" and "Troubbble," pop songs so absurdly saccharin they could cause cavities.

The band's elasticity extended into its covers, which have become a staple of the tour. Two of the most interesting tunes came during the encores, when drummer John Moen switched places with Malkmus to roll through a slack but amusing version of Lou Reed's "Satellite of Love" and an equally sloppy, if less impressive, stroll through Willie Nelson's "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain." But this relaxed approach also bled into Malkmus originals, as when Mike Clarke's second guitar on "Trojan Curfew" provided ornate, peppery arpeggios over Malkmus' lead lines.

It's as a guitarist that Malkmus has made the most strides since Pavement. His warm, expansive tone has always been instantly recognizable, part Eagles West Coast sheen, part Fall staccato bite. Now he's finally able to play his idiosyncratic leads without requiring a second guitar to fill in the melodic holes, and his performances have evolved in interesting ways--as in the show-closing "One Percent of One," during which Malkmus unraveled a winding, extended, acid-y solo. That's a straight-up rock kick Pavement never had.

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