Often, when you’ve been a fan of an artist for a long time, their new albums fail to excite and buying them or seeing the artist in concert becomes more of a duty than a joy. Many times, you’ll go to a show resigned to the fact that you’re going to hear mostly songs from the latest record rather than well-loved favorites. I’ve been a fan of Stephen Malkmus since his days with Pavement, and I’ve never been as excited to hear his recent work live as I was with his newest CD, Face the Truth. More playful that his previous two solo efforts, Face the Truth finds Malkmus spreading out, indulging some of his silliest tendencies as well as his guitar virtuosity.
Last night’s show was the loosest I’ve ever seen Malkmus. Usually, he tends to get disinterested in a song he’s playing if he thinks he screws up, and that only happened once during the show last night, during “Freeze the Saints.” His concentration seemed intent throughout the rest of the evening, except for perhaps a meandering middle section to “No More Shoes.” Highlights of the set included album opener “Pencil Rot,” which was fierce with a full band sound, “Water and a Seat” from his last album Pig Lib, and everyone’s favorite, Jenny and the Ess-Dog. It seemed to me to be a pretty short set, even though Malkmus played two new, unreleased songs.
The evening was marred only when he let his drummer take guitar and the mic for the last song of the encore, a bar-band sounding number that devolved into noisy numbskullery lacking none of the artisty and wit of the masters of noise, like Sonic Youth, or openers PAIK, who I want to mention for a minute.
PAIK, or as I like to call them, Frodo Pond, played an opening set of incredibly loud and repitious psychedelic sludge instrumentals. I’m a sucker for that kind of stuff, and it was exactly what I needed to clear out the cobwebs of depression that had been clouding my mind since that morning. The best psychedelic live shows (for instance, Spiritualized), transcend time through volume, repetition and lights shows. The earsplitting volume and blinding lights of PAIK’s peak robbed me of my senses, and I was forced to stand eyes closed and fingers in ears, light still flashing across my retinas and sound still filling up my ears and shaking my pants (and my beer). It was an invigorating and exhausting experience. There’s something about the combination of distortion, feedback and repitition that I really think has some sort of a physiological affect on me - ever since I was a teen (prior to any sort of drug experiences), that kind of sound made my brain feel whole and smooth and round. I don’t know if I’m describing the feeling right, but it really is some sort of transcedence. Thank you PAIK!
Stephen Malkmus will play Battery Park in a free(?) show with Yo La Tengo and Laura Cantrell on July 4