Stephen Malkmus
Face The Truth
Matador
2005
B+



i’m a nut for finding similarities in style and artistic/commercial trajectory between rock bands, and REM/Pavement was always a favorite back in the nineties. Both bands offered enigmatic singles and an epochal debut followed by an almost trad sophomore classic and a schizo follow-up. But while Pavement was like REM, Stephen Malkmus wasn’t like Michael Stipe. Where Stipe justified arena dreams with a collective PC agenda, Malkmus’s interests were more arch and individual. In hindsight, the last two Pavement albums are closer in spirit to the final Replacements and Pixies releases: a singer-songwriter slowly slipping away from royalty-siphoning pals in search of private joy.

With the self-titled solo debut predictably tentative, Pig Lib found Malkmus finally secure in his Scrabble-happy dreamboat role, benefited to no end by the Jicks, who grooved more confidently (no “Westie Can’t Drum” for John Moen) than his former band and knew their role was purely supportive. Folks who thought the dude was meant for something greater than cryptic boogie wrote him off as a once-was, despite the fact that he had finally lost the tendency to end every song with screaming. The intricacies of craft tend to get lost on these folks, though, especially if your version of maturity isn’t a dive into the funereal.

A version of maturity is what a lot of this album is about, too: “I never had much of a lovely goal,” “it kills the time,” “let me languish here,” “enfold me in serenity,” “I want my alka-seltzer,” “my heart is unable to stay so unstable no more.” Dude’s picked the small-stakes cult artist route and it fits like a glove. He’s yet to lose his melodic gifts or enthusiasm, and it’s possible he’ll just keep jamming out emotional recaps (“Malediction”) and light cultural commentaries (“Post-Paint Boy”) till self-consciousness or a lack of inspiration strike first.

With the Fiery Furnaces bringing indie-prog rigmarole back in fashion, Face The Truth might get a little more love than Pig Lib did, despite being the same album with a few more fart sounds. The willfully obnoxious opener “Pencil Rot” implies a return to spazz, but by “Freeze The Saints” we’re surrounded by gold soundz and gorgeous grooves, the quirks abbreviated and superficial. Malkmus will probably never drop the oddball shtick entirely—it’s both his defense mechanism and date bait—but America could use its own Robyn Hitchcock, especially one who cares whether his drummer can drum.


Reviewed by: Anthony Miccio
Reviewed on: 2005-05-25
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