When you think about it, Malkmus has never tried to hide his dorkiness. Back when the members of Pavement were the darlings of the indie-rock universe, Malkmus went out of his way to talk about his favorite Scrabble moves instead of hip influences. Now 47, back in Portland after a few years living with his family in Berlin, he’s fully embracing his inner nerd: penning songs about fights at Chicago dive bars (“Rumble at the Rainbo”), joke-naming the most tender ballad after another hoopster’s nickname (“J Smoov”), and singing about cinnamon, lesbians, Tennyson, venison and the Grateful Dead.
Wig Out at Jagbags
is easily Malkmus’ most fun record since his self-titled solo
debut—it’s an almost effortless collection of weird pop songs, guitar
freakouts and inside jokes. Malkmus sounds confident and invigorated,
embracing his whims and mostly ditching the extended classic-rock jams
for hummable melodies and a sort of lovable white-boy soul. “Houston
Hades” and the terrific first single, “Lariat,” showcase the king jester
at his sing-song best, ripping off hilarious lines, non sequiturs and
odd poetic phrases that get better with each listen. “We grew up
listening to the music of the best decade ever,” he sings on “Lariat,”
pausing briefly before the punch line: “Talking ’bout the ADDs.” Never
HEAR IT: Wig Out at Jagbags is out Tuesday, Jan. 7.