Stephen Malkmus has never made a record that covered nearly as much stylistic ground as this nor, it could be argued, has Stephen made an album until now that packed as much of an emotional (not nearly trashy enough for some) wallop. "Cold Son," "Out of Reaches" and "We Can't Help You" are amongst the more gorgeous, contemplative songs Malkmus has recorded, though we should stress a) there's no shortage of dark humor scattered through RET and b) Malkmus remains a sh*t-hot guitarist (ridiculously so).
If youve never heard Stephen Malkmus, you might want to begin with one of the more accessible of his four solo albums, be it the self-titled debut or 2005s watertight Face the Truth
. But if youre familiar with his individual work or that of his former band, Pavement, Real Emotional Trash
will settle right in as the next chapter of the eccentric Portlanders prolificacy. Leading the Jicks this time is ex-Sleater-Kinney drummer (and backing vocalist) Janet Weiss, who--while she never lets loose to pound her skins to oblivion--does manage to reel in the band on extended jams like that of the intricate "Elmo Delmo," a bluesy murder yarn called "Hopscotch Willie," or the sprawling 10-minute title track. Malkmuss guitar fixation tends to overshadow his roguish, pop-sharp song craft this time around, with fewer catchy choruses and more axe-driven bypasses, save for the peculiar "Cold Son" and the joyful live-show staple "Gardenia." Then again, Trash
's capriciousness and experimental willingness are what gave Malkmus an audience in the first place--and what promise to keep it coming back for more. --Scott Holter