Believe it or not, an analogy has always existed between Lennon and McCartney and Pavement’s Scott “Spiral Stairs” Kannberg and Stephen “SM” Malkmus. It’s far from bulletproof: the cultural impact of the two duos is beyond lopsided in the Beatles’ favor, and Lennon-McCartney generally split songwriting duties, whereas Malkmus ran the Pavement train. But personality-wise, the comparison works. McCartney’s a virtuoso, happy-go-lucky pop auteur, while Lennon was a proponent of musical rawness and integrity. When the two artists went solo, Macca penned “Silly Love Songs,” while Lennon sang about “Isolation” and “God” – without each other, the men’s individual tendencies went unchecked. A similar dynamic existed between Kannberg, who’s rumored to have cold-cocked Jason Priestley when Pavement was asked to play a guest spot on Beverly Hills, 90210, and Malkmus, whose fun, lyrical acrobatics and admitted fondness for upbeat American groups like CCR and Strawberry Alarm Clock have informed much of his solo work.
On Mirror Traffic, SM’s fifth release with the Jicks, he maintains the sunny musical outlook, yet also experiments with several different styles and enlists an outside producer (Beck) for the first time since Pavement. The results vary. “Tigers” takes off with a peppy “Sexx Laws”-esque chorus, but “Spazz” relies too much on lyrical gimmickry (“Would you like to pet my rifle? / Summer camp is such a drag”), and a vocal sap-fest like “Fall Away” would never have made it past Spiral Stairs’ indie-rock sensors. With the solo Malkmus, simpler is usually better, and at times on Mirror Traffic, he’s allowed to show off his natural songwriting abilities. Both “Asking Price” – with its mysterious build-up and subtle, backing “Ooh ooh ooh’s” – and the well-crafted “Share the Red,” whose direct melody and words cut straight to the point (“Have you no ears? / Have you no eyes? / You got no idea of how to survive”), reaffirm that Malkmus is a pure talent, one worthy of our admiration no matter how many “Silly Love Songs” he may choose to write.
See the video for new tune “No One Is (As I Are Be) when you click here!