Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks : Sparkle Hard
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Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks : Sparkle Hard

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Irreverence is a delicate position in a time when it’s never been easier not to care. Stephen Malkmus, formerly of ‘90s indie-rock-cum-irreverent visionaries Pavement, carries this burden on his seventh record with the Jicks, Sparkle Hard.

Malkmus’ voice retains the dewy-eyed croak that has curled melodies around absurdist rock for the last three decades, yet a wisening tone has crept in. The record streamlines Malkmus’ often nonsensical lyricism to resemble a surprising political lucidity.

‘Middle America’ is the centrepiece of Malkmus’ new dogma against inactivity, as he muses “Blame stops when you do…Do your major duty, and crawl right back again,” over a delirious twang. Prairie fiddle haunts the record’s frustrated discourse, pairing Americana with broken American ideals.

Malkmus shoehorns auto-tune into several tracks here in a weak attempt to offset his now middle-aged brand, something he needn’t have tried. The Jicks’ instrumentals are a highly refined mix of psych-Americana, and are a reminder Malkmus is the forefather of Mac DeMarco’s surf-slacker creed.

Sparkle Hard is a record built on Malkmus’ consummate pop-timism and effortless hooks, yet it carries an unexpected modern poignancy. The silky instrumental mould of ‘Gold Soundz’ hasn’t changed, but the sentiment sure has.

7/10