Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks at the Cedar, 2/18/14

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks at the Cedar, 2/18/14
Photo by Mark N. Kartarik

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks
With Tyvek
Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis
Tuesday, February 18, 2014

With Pavement's '90s catalog gradually turning 20, a lazier Stephen Malkmus could've been in deep doo doo by now. Every year, more and more of his contemporaries are just trotting out ancient material as classic-rock acts for the indie set. He's at least doing a version of this too. With the just-released Wig Out at Jagbags, his sixth solo album with the Jicks, he smashes together Boston's stadium heroics, the looseness of the Grateful Dead, a dash of Can-style krautrock, and melodies that simultaneously hint at the Ramones, Billy Joel, and his old band -- all delivered with a smirk and a slouch. An eventual leap to the casino circuit won't be so tough after all.

Whether his infectious "Lariat" line -- "We grew up listening to the music from the best decade ever" -- meant listening to Bob Seger, Devo, Pavement, or Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks. a wide age spectrum seemed to get a good bit of what they needed Tuesday at the Cedar.

See Also: Slideshow: Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks at the Cedar, 2/18/14

The absurd amusements began immediately when Malkmus, drummer Jake Morris, bassist Joanna Bolme, and guitarist/keyboardist Mike Clark walked onstage. Spotting a pair of kids parked near his microphone stand, young enough to be born after Pavement broke up (bless the Cedar's commitment to all-ages shows) he jokingly turned into a concerned cool dad himself, "Young man, you got earplugs?" And then to the whole crowd, he explained he knows something about taking kids to shows. "We saw Lorde. She has this punishing low end," he said. Then he waited a beat, and added, "Not her body."

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks at the Cedar, 2/18/14
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks at the Cedar, 2/18/14
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks at the Cedar, 2/18/14
Photos by Mark N. Kartarik

The barrage of one-liners and meandering tales continued, both in banter and song form. By swerving between toe-tapping rock of "Brain Gallop," proggier statements like "Spazz," and even mic-clasping soul on "J Smoov," the set stayed schizophrenically dynamic. Anyone who expected some artful dicking around with "Smoov" got their money's worth. All the while, the lanky Malkmus made his most-difficult solos look easy by slinging his battered Stratocaster over his head or down to his knees in mock grandiosity. Maybe 47 is the new 17. Or at least the new 42.

Malkmus returned to his half-worries for the youthful fans up front just before "Senator." "What's next?" he asked Bolme. She replied, "Oh yeah, it's the blow job song." But no timidity came across in its neck-breaking execution. Afterwards, he admitted, "I kinda regret those lyrics now." As he segued into the Jagbags stoner rocker "Shibboleth," he noted, "I don't regret these lyrics... yet."

The Jicks followed Malkmus's varying levels of loyalty to the source material throughout the night. When he got muddy, they blurred their accompaniment; when he cleaned up his strums, they were ready to tighten the screws. On Mirror Traffic's "Stick Figures in Love," Clark doubled up with his frontman on several guitar runs. It was like watching a car with bald tires still slide perfectly into a parking space, and he rewarded himself by jumping atop any available speaker cabinets on his side of the stage. With the sweetness-from-shrapnel "Houston Hades" and suite of disorder "Surreal Teenagers," the set ended with the band in high-difficulty mode. (And another knowing wink to the kids' dads when Malkmus sang the word "copulate.")
The encore proved even more surreal. Malkmus and the Jicks returned rapidly, and so began a bizarre hypothetical about the night's opening band Tyvek teaming with Tuareg musicians (and Cedar faves) Tinariwen and Kid Rock on the trippiest USO tour in history. Morris then chided the bandleader for joking about Rock, after having him over at his last barbecue. "He's a cool dude," Malkmus replied. "He respects the Seeg." And a momentary fumble through some Bob Seger "Old Time Rock and Roll," led into the ode to being old punks, "Rumble at the Rainbo."

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks at the Cedar, 2/18/14
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks at the Cedar, 2/18/14
Photos by Mark N. Kartarik

After the easy sing-along "Tigers" and the dangling of "Karma Chameleon" and "Wonderwall" without any actual notes offered up, Pavement junkies got their fix with a few later-era gems courtesy of "Father of a Sister of a Thought," and "Harness Your Hopes." Then, the hypnotic Pig Lib-era "Us" somehow devolved into a cover of "All Apologies." Kurt Cobain was laughing his ass off somewhere.

With no outright intro, the band quickly transitioned into the long intro to Devo's dizzying "Gut Feeling." As a tribute to the the group's founding guitarist Bob Casale, whose death was announced earlier in the day, it fit the pseudo-nostalgic night like a glove. Eyes closed, Malkmus sang "That really gets my goat" with all the indignation of the original. It left a tone of "respect thy elders" on the stage that lasted a good 25 seconds. But the last notes of the night were a jokey half-cover of Foreigner's "Hot Blooded" bubbling up between Clark and Morris as Malkmus made his quick retreat.    

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: Even the most noodly, unkempt moments from the Stephen Malkmus catalog amuse me.

The Crowd: See above comments about kids and dads. 

Random Notebook Dump: There were more than a few moments when the Malkmus banter felt like he'd been listening to too much of confrontational comic Neil Hamburger.

Overheard: A lot of requests for "Real Emotional Trash."

Planetary Motion
(Do Not Feed The) Oyster
No One Is (As I Be)
Cinnamon and Lesbians
Brain Gallop
J Smoov
The Janitor Revealed
Asking Price
Stick Figures in Love
Houston Hades
Surreal Teenagers

Rumble at the Rainbo
Father of a Sister of a Thought (Pavement)
Harness Your Hopes (Pavement)
Us > All Apologies (Nirvana)
Gut Feeling (Devo)
Hot Blooded (Foreigner) (outro)

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