In Which Your Jokes Are Always Bad But They’re Not As Bad As This

It’s a Brand New Era But It Came Too Late

by Molly Lambert

“Little Red Riding Hood was my first Love. I felt that if I could have married Little Red Riding Hood, I should have known perfect bliss.” – Charles Dickens

Back in the day when I was busy writing hit plays and having really bad skin, there was not much space in my life for romance. Maybe I was Advanced, or also possibly a really big loser. But, like most Americans my age, I felt I deserved only the very best. (You see how picky I am about my shoes, and they only go on my feet!) So for the most part I had imaginary boyfriends, and chief among them was Stephen Malkmus.

The word “indie” has been re-appropriated in so many ways. Do you feel a disconnect when a Pavement record is called the greatest indie-rock record of all time?

SM: Well, it’s the greatest indie-rock record of a specific kind of indie. Like that Lou Barlow/Sebadoh song, “Gimme Indie Rock.” He said it well. It came out of hardcore, because American hardcore was indie. Then he started smoking pot and listening to slow music, or admitting this ’70s music was okay. And that kinda became the template for early-’90s indie rock.

I learned about Matador Records from a CD listening station at a Borders. This was before the internet became the only listening kiosk and source of information about music.

I went home with a Pizzicato Five CD. The Pizzicato Five album was probably the first CD I ever bought. Before that I had only owned tapes; Salt-N-Pepa, TLC, and the first Weezer album. I feel old just saying the word “tapes.”

I buried myself in Matador’s catalog. I bought Brighten The Corners and an appropriately used copy of Liz Phair’s Exile In Guyville at my favorite record store, Moby Disc. These were formative purchases. I had new heroes I could relate to.

I lost interest in Liz Phair when I found Kathleen Hanna, but Steve Malkmus remained the gold standard in imaginary boyfriends. When nobody wanted to go with me to shows, I’d think “I bet Steve Malkmus would be interested in seeing this post-punk/twee/indorock band with me.” And then we’d have banana splits and ride a tandem bike etc. etc.

Stephen Malkmus: grown-ass man, very tan, Mets fan

This was in a post-Nirvana pre-Strokes age when teenage boys had short hair and baggy pants and looked terrible. Today’s teenage boys all have long hair and tight pants and I almost run them over gawking as they skateboard home from school. It was not as easy to find generically indie boys back then as it is now.

Now it’s overwhelming. There are so many legions of poseurs, it’s gotten way harder to tell who used to be into ska. And Steve Malkmus is a grown-ass man making solo albums, and he married an actual woman last year; a Californian ceramicist. Fitting for a guy so obsessed with concrete, fissures, and earth.

Steve Malkmus and Janet Weiss

SM is making grown-ass music too, and I am glad. Hearing the first track of his new album Real Emotional Trash I got worried it was going to be a JSBX style CCR aping choogle affair. As it turns out, SM does choogle quite a bit, but it’s not Bloozy so much as Prog. The new album also has flourishes of folk-rock, Thin Lizzy (twin guitarmonies!), and vocals from lady Jicks Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney, Quasi) and Joanna Bolme (The Minders).

The long form really suits SM because Pavement were, in their way, sometimes a pretty proggy band. They wrote songs with multiple sections, long instrumental breaks, they experimented with effects. Also I mean, chalices of gold. It always sounded like the coolest geeks in the world hanging out in their garage somewhere in Los Angeles throwing dice. Maybe he really was rattled by the Rush.

Frippertronics, demonstrated

On a few tracks the Jicks get Frippertronic. Song titles invoke The Who, masters of the mini-rock-operetta form. Malkmus is my first choice to write a rock opera for some indie director (Spike Jonze?) to direct. The best song on Real Emotional Trash is the epic eponymous centerpiece of the album.

The ten minute mega-jam is some of his most earnest and emotional work, and it suits the adult SM. Surrounded by more oblique songs, it’s a clue that maybe Steve is finally through being cool. Or at least over being cool. But then again he’s always seemed over it. Which is of course the very coolest of all.

I predict Malkmus gets sweeter and more nostalgic with age, and turns into the nineties indie equivalent of Jonathan Richman or Ray Davies, writing his own personal “Waterloo Sunset.” Maybe the famously oblique artist will open himself up to us, like other famously oblique artists before him, as he has hinted at in his more personal songs. Steve Malkmus’s love is a flower just beginning to bloom.

Malkmus in Montana: the house where they recorded the new album

Steve seems to write his own blog messages. He apologized to Pitchfork for referring to Sam Beam as Beards & Vests (lolz) and then trying to fob it off on fellow Jick Janet Weiss. Here are some pictures of Steve mixing Real Emotional Trash with the Jicks. They recorded it a beautiful mountain studio in Northern Montana.

Steve blogs about Stockton:

Todd Haynes mentions Stockton California twice in New mOvie.

WE (kinda) know Mr Haynes is from GLendale or San Bernadino . But after doing his undergrad at Brown and A stint in the garbage factory that is New YOrk CIty, we thought the Metaphorical Power of STOCKTON was far from his mind…

SO it was a shock to this Moviegoer when the Pure Vanilla DESPERATION of Stockton was invoked Mr. Haynes nu movie IM not THERE; Maybe he read Fat City. We know Denis Johnson considers Fat City to be a masterpiece of compression.

If you looked up the word “NOWHERE” in the Psychic Dictionary of Places, Stockton would be the first Definition.

NICE work, TOdd.

He’s got Central Valley luv.

Wow so Todd Haynes is from ENCINO? Which means, like, he’s from the VALLEY? And like, so am I? And P.T. Anderson? And Judd Apatow shoots everything there? It’s because the Valley is the secret center of the world. Duh?


Robert Fripp’s Diary

An online book about Robert Fripp

Robert Fripp: King Of Nerd Rock

All the nineties indie boyz are making classic rock albums with proggy flourishes. I heard In The Court Of The Crimson King the other day and thought “wow hey this is a really good song.”

Since I love Matador so much, I already feel bad about posting those Cat Power mp3s the other day so I’ll just post one track from the Malkmus album because we should really all go buy it and give that excellent label our cash.

Molly Lambert is the senior editor of This Recording.


Out Of Reaches – Stephen Malkmus: mp3

The Heavenly Music Corporation – Eno and Fripp: mp3

Swastika Girls – Eno and Fripp: mp3

Don’t worry SM, yr off the hook. I have a new imaginary boyfriend now and his name is Alan Partridge.


Whale Week


Cause = Time

Of Sound Mind

Audial Forensics has Fripp’s side and solo projects

Britney Spears: There Will Be Blood. NSFL.


How to get to the Land of Oz.

Science Corner terrifies and enchants.

5 Neat Guys and Jenny Slate.


10 thoughts on “In Which Your Jokes Are Always Bad But They’re Not As Bad As This

  1. I like to tell people that the first CD I bought was the soundtrack to Reality Bites. But it was really the soundtrack to the B’way revival of Grease. And Brooke Shields played Rizzo.

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