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Sparkle Hard — ‘disheveled rock songs’

Sparkle Hard — ‘disheveled rock songs’

May 29
11:54 2018

Sparkle Hard’s coruscating title hints at being forced to shine, like a comedian shilling for laughs. The seventh album from Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks replaces what would have been an unusual departure for Malkmus, former leader of Pavement — a solo keyboard album that he made and presented to his US record label, which rejected it. Despite his renown for writing digressive, twisty songs, it was judged an excursus too far.

So Sparkle Hard is Malkmus’s caged-songbird album. It returns him to the world of disheveled rock songs, loose and discursive things that appear to discard trains of thought while actually observing some sly inner logic, like an alt-rock version of the television detective Columbo. The surprise here is that the results really are sparkling.

“Cast Off” opens with a childish “I’m right, you’re wrong” keyboard melody (“na na na na na naaa”) but then rallies with off-kilter piano rock. Songs have rambling guitar solos and cryptic lyrics, yet each note fits with the next like a strangely easy-going puzzle. “Scratched out a doggerel verse or two,” Malkmus sings in “Solid Silk”. We should not mistake the irony for cynicism: there is no ill-faith in his music.


Sparkle Hard’ is released by Domino

The Financial Times Limited 2018. All rights reserved.

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