Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Concert Review: Malkmus & The Jicks @ Neumo's January 19, 2007


By Jamie Hancock, MLIS Day

Two of Portland’s biggest rock stars were in Seattle on Friday night, and for a couple of hours, the animosity between the Rose and Emerald Cities subsided.

We forgot about the sales tax divide, rent prices, and light rail transportation solutions.

On the last stop of their I-5 Corridor tour before heading home, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks made an ambassadorial visit to Capitol Hill. Joining the musical envoy this time was Janet Weiss, longtime drummer of Sleater-Kinney and Quasi. The Jicks made a plea to the citizens of Seattle: “Our differences should never interfere with our ability to rock. Though some of us live on a river, and others of us live on a sound, we both live near water…and we both have sports teams owned by Paul Allen.”

That statement is, of course, a fabrication. But it would not be out of character for Malkmus, who regularly provides sarcasm mixed with social commentary in between songs. As the former frontman of Pavement and now a member of the Jicks, he has made a career out of clever wordplay in his songs (“carry on/it’s a marathon…carrion/it’s what we all become”), as well as lyrics that are hard to interpret (“swing your nachos like you just don’t care”?). Malkmus’ witticisms and goofy behavior come out in his performances as well as his recordings. At the beginning of the encore, he delivered an impromptu song about popcorn and then told the audience to get ready for some “rock action shreddage in the (206)/(503) corridor.”

His banter with the crowd, however, was sparser than usual. Likewise, most of the new Jicks songs (no album release date yet) are not as wordy and more jammy. By “jammy,” I’m referring to the nature of a Phish song, not a word choice made by Ice Cube. One of my friends left halfway through the show to go for a walk and he cited this characteristic as the reason for his departure. There is a noticeable increase in song length (average of four minutes) over the last two Malkmus albums. Whether or not that is attributed to old age or artistic freedom granted by his now legendary “indie” status remains to be seen. What’s clear is that Malkmus is still having fun and that he’s still an incredible guitarist. And Weiss’ addition to the Jicks is a welcome change. Besides raising the hipness quotient of the band by 75%, she’s an excellent drummer who provides spirited back-up vocals.

The set began with the first songs off the last two albums, “Pencil Rot” and “Water and A Rat.” Then the band veered into unknown territory and returned to crowd favorites at the end of the show. “Jo Jo’s Jacket” and “The Hook,” songs that glorify Yul Brynner and the pirate lifestyle, received the greatest cheers. All in all, concert goers at Neumo’s provided a warm reception for the Portland-based Jicks. During the lively encore, Malkmus revealed that all three of his band mates hailed from the Seattle area. So maybe it’s time we put aside our differences and realize--Portlanders and Seattleites are of one ilk. The small city-big city argument is not as important as embracing our common musical heritage.

But, seriously, who does that pansy Malkmus think he is with that pretentious Laurelwood mustache?

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