On February 14th Cupid brings Mid-Missouri the ultimate valentine: a concert at Mojo’s by the best rock and roll band going, Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks. I recommend you attend this concert. If you don’t have a valentine, the show will be a perfect respite from the world’s constant reminders that you are alone. If you have one, bring them. If they refuse to go and you don’t care to scorn them, I recommend you write messages of your devotion on their favorite possessions and fill their living space and/or automobile with rose petals, doves and massage oil. They will be moved by this show of affection and no longer a hindrance to your attendance at what is likely the single greatest musical happening in the history of the world: a concert by my favorite band in an intimate venue that I don’t have to drive very far to get to.
In January Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks released their sixth album, exhorting listeners to action with its title: “Wig out at Jagbags.” The exhortation presents a conundrum. I ache to acquiesce to their demands, but it may be ungentlemanly to find the nearest jagbag and confront them for their jagbagery, my mouth frothing, blood vessels bursting in my eyes, howling at a moon only I can see. Perhaps the gentlemanly thing to do would be to continue giving my customary polite nods and encouraging whistles to everyone, even when some folks’ actions dictate more than the lack of such niceties, whose actions indeed demand the thorough wigging-out-at of a sort a gentleman would find wholly uncouth. This is a puzzle through which I fear I may always be working. For the time I’ve struck a compromise: rather than spew outrage with physicality, I will simply leave sternly worded missives in jars buried on the property of those whose behavior demands it. Until a better solution presents itself, I can soothe my troubled mind by dipping into the music of Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks, a band that brews a mix of songs eclectic enough to match any mood.
If one’s jangled nerves need soothing, perhaps due to their internal struggle between heeding the decrees of their musical heroes or succumbing to their natural inclination to doze peaceably in silken hammocks, the soft rocking trombone and guitar duel of “J Smoov” is apt to seduce one into an amiable mindset. If you’re more inclined to release some frustration with clapping and foot-stomps, the coupling of a rhythmic chug and sweetly spastic guitar solo in “Planetary Motion” will facilitate these primitive urges. Maybe you want to smile and bop your head, loving that things as beautiful and strange as “Houston Hades” exist. Its calamitous deluge of an intro builds then snaps into a sublime earworm groove that demands repetition and delivers it until sprinting to the end with a coda as perfect for its song as any ever has been. Perhaps you crave a catchy song narrated by a man who commiserates with a troubled mind, singing “The mental speedbumps you must navigate/the frigid shoulders interrupting fate/I often jump-cut to my future days.” The narrator believes he’s “destined for greatness by design,” but the Malkmusian tendency to give everything a double or triple-edge undercuts the sentiment and supplies the song’s title: “The Janitor Revealed.”
I yearn to quote lyrics and give overwrought descriptions of every song on this album, and indeed of all the songs on each of their five previous outstanding releases, but I’ve prattled on too long, and besides, I have a lot of jars to gather and digging to do. While you’re reading this the show is selling out, and missing this concert, should you allow that to come to pass, will prove to be one of your life’s great regrets.