Stephen Malkmus – REal EMotional TRash


Oh man, what a day yesterday was. The new Stephen Malkmus album has leaked. No doubt by some no talent critic who will give it one listen and make his judgement (rolling stone). I’ve spent last night and all day today listening and critiquing. And here it is…

My track by track analysis of:

Stephen Malkmus – Real Emotional Trash

1. Dragonfly Pie
Starts out with a heavy beat and bluesy distorted guitar and does a good job of setting the tone for the album. This song is a bit of a microcosm for the entire album. The beginning is hard hitting, heavy, bluesy and then he refrain is a bit catchier, but not catchy……….as the album goes on you’ll see what I mean. Overall a strong opener, just as Water and a Seat, Pencil Rot and to a lesser extent Black Book, were great openers.

2. Hopscotch Willie
SM said this song was based on a character of the same name that he created. He said he was kind of like a Bad Bad Leroy Brown type of character, with a WAY more feminine and less scary nickname. This song chronicles Willie’s suspected participation in a  murder. Willie, claims he’s innocent, don’t we all. This is a cool song. The guitars in this song are also screamy, bluesy and just downright awesome. They fit the song perfectly and you’ll want to hear the guitar riffs over and over. The refrain is also ALMOST catchy, but not quite, in a way cool way. The guitar in the refrain is loud, thin and echoes, it’s way cool.

3. Cold Son
At present, my favorite song on the album. I really like the development of the guitar from palm-muted scraping to the poppy guitar with a shins-esque keyboard/moog in the background. This song reminds me of the Ramp of Death+Post Paint Boy with heavier guitar.  I LOVE the refrain in this song. The guitar has such an awesome effect on it, just sounds awesome, very original, crunchy, or something?

4. Real Emotional Trash
SM’s first title track. In the same interview I read he said that the girls in the band thought the name worked well as an album title and thus it was so. I really like the title. This song is the longest of some long songs on this album, clocking in at 10:09. This songs is a a smooth lyrically beauty. The song just feels like it flows perfectly. Lyrics such as: “easy said but less often done/point me in the direction/of your real emotional trash.” I think that sums the song up quite well. The guitar in this song is great throughout, fits the lyrically atmosphere perfectly.

5. Out Of Reaches
This song creates a somber mood through the title and the seemingly hopeless electric guitar lines. Give this song a listen, the sadness just radiates from every drawn out guitar line equipped with a bend at the end. SM’s whining at its best. The refrain of this song is great, it has one of those awesome dual lyrical moments where he is saying, Out of reaches, Out of reaches, but the way in which he separates the words makes it sound as though he is saying, “Out of, reaches out, out, of scenery.” I love that, it’s one of my favorite moments on the album. The drums throughout the song are great too, as I break from my SM love train. Ending the song with sincere repeating of the phrase, “I know the tide will turn.” perfect.

6. Baltimore
The first song I heard polished up and in album form. It was the one Matador released as a free download on its website. I was definitely disappointed. While this song has grown on me, I still find it to be my least favorite, which of course is a pleasant surprise as it did not leave me with high hopes for the album. I do like the lyrics throughout the song, but the thing I think is the most positive about this album is the guitar. SM at his fretboard molesting finest. The guitar is great throughout the entire 6:37. For now that’s all I’ve got. GIve it a chance I suppose, it will grow on you for sure.

7. Gardenia
Listed in live sets as Merry Go Round (pronounced Mary Go Round), it has been renamed and slightly re-lyriced. This is a sweet little song, almost channeling a cereal bar jingle or something of the sort. The chorus is awesome. So catchy, truly. It’s an intensely happy sounding and joyful romp through the mind of SM. One of those, oh….it’s so short and you just want it to go on forever. Lyrics are great. This is also the second song to feature the woman Jicks on backing vocals. The chorus is truly enhanced by the bah bah bah’s they sing so carelessly.

8. Elmo Delmo
This song is a lot cooler than you think, and Elmo Delmo is totally a phrase I’m going to use from now on. I wasn’t sure about this song at first. There is some weird little flutely/keyboard/puff the magic dragon thing at the beginning. After that finishes the song kind of races off at a quick pace and has moments where it reminds me of some of John Lennon’s later Beatles stuff (I’m not comparing it to the Beatles, calm down). The guitar sounds almost foreign, but not in a bad way. Then at about 2:00 the song settles into itself and the guitar starts to truly rock as SM starts a mini-solo sort of deal. From there on I think the song is a good one. It’s got a good deal of instrumental moments, which is cool, especially at this juncture of the album. The end of the song is my favorite part, from about 4:30 on, culminating with SM’s cool repetition of Elmo Delmo. This song seems very superficial in a cool way, completely self conscious, Elmo Delmo is basically SM telling you he knows how awesome he is. This song segues into the next very well.

9. We Can’t Help You
As I said, follows Elmo Delmo quite well. Has a very SM guitar riff and a very comical sound. It’s one of those that will eventually be good to sing along to with a car full of friends, once you all learn the words that is. This song is another example of the lady Jicks stepping into a singing role, and another time where it just sounds plain good. There is a riff that is repeated throughout the song, its hard to explain, but its like a syncopated rhythm sort of deal and its way cool. A piano, almost bar piano sounding, and an organ back up the Jicks on this song, and it could be cheesy, but naturally its just awesome. Fits the song well.

10. Wicked Wanda
Smooth guitar opening and throughout. Moments in this song almost sound awkward, but somehow they work. The lyrics are interesting: “…little spider with hollywood inside her. Wicked wicked wanda, i’d rather date Rwanda.” Hey, that’s cool I guess, with SM. More Jicks singing in the background here. Again no more than a single word, but it works well. As does the keyboard/toy piano used sporadically throughout, This song does the album justice as a closer and I think ends it quietly while not simply wilting away or going out with a whimper.
Overall: I do not think this album was a disappointment by any means. It is great to see that no two SM albums sound the same. It keeps things interesting, it really does. This album might be hard to crack into for some, but once you’ve found the tap, I think you’ll love it. Parts of it have yet to grow on me, so we’ll see how that goes. Great music often takes patience. I can’t say I’m ready to give this album “a rating out of ten” but I could rank it amongst his other albums.

1. Pig Lib
2. Real Emotional Trash
3. Stephen Malkmus
4. Face The Truth

I guess that means if Pig Lib were a 10, then REal EMotional TRash would be an 8? We’ll see what pitchfork gives it, I’m guessing a 6-7 something. Personally, I like it, I think you should give it a listen. And if you download it, PLEASE go out and buy the album. I’ll be first in line for the vinyl pre-order when it’s announced, that much I know. And go to shows!

Real Emotional Trash can legally be yours on the 4th of March, 2008.


15 thoughts on “Stephen Malkmus – REal EMotional TRash

  1. Thanks for the review.
    I have heard the album and still getting into it..
    Not the best guitar sound I’ve ever heard from Malkmus. Sounds kinda thin and raking at times although the playing is always awesome.
    suprised by your album rankings. I only really like Face the Truth and rate that album very highly, (simply No More Shoes). I would rank s/t last because I hate it, then Pig Lib which is very disjointed but has some cracking tunes. I would say this new one would rank somewhere between Pib Lib and FtT. Nothing here aS GREAT AS pENCIL rOT YET!

  2. This album was perfect in many ways. One thing this guy does not have problems with is having people go to the shows! They are pretty much all sold out and within hours of going on sale noless. Im just happy I got mine.

  3. I think that this album is definitely and unfortunately a step down from the more melodic “Face the Truth.” That album really proved that the songwriting skills of Malkmus were still there. This one? Well… He certainly knows how to shred on the guitar, but when five out of the ten songs basically consist of a few verses supporting a 3-minute guitar solo, it starts to grow tiresome. Moreover, songs such as “Wicked Wanda” and “Out of Reaches” just don’t grab me at all. It’s almost as though Malkmus was deliberately singing off-key to ruin what could have been a memorable verse or chorus. I’ve only streamed the album twice so far, but I have to say that, as of now, this probably won’t end up being one of my favorite albums of ’08, as I had hoped and imagined that it would be.

  4. I was reluctant to add my two-cents to the discussion as I haven’t listened to the album too much yet.
    Let me qualify that Malkmus is among my very favorite solo artists and Pavement is one of my favorite groups.
    I can say that upon first listen, I was surprised that this album didn’t grab me more. His first solo album grabbed me right away. And his second, Pig Lib, was a revelation after that–Water and a Seat?! I knew that album was going to be great. He also started jamming more on that one (witch mtn,1%of one), and throwing in the techno edge on some songs(dark wave). Great variety as well–eccentric, jammy, humorous, feel-good vibe (Vanessa from Queens
    was a great song).
    Likewise, Face the Truth grabbed me right away, and also revealed much variety throughout-Pencil Rot, It Kills, Mama, Kindling for the Master; what you didn’t like best at first grew on you.
    So, I have to think, as I listen to the new album
    now, that this will continue to grow on me (actually I’m sure it will–it is at the moment I’m typing).
    I think part of the difference b/w the new one and the others is the new Jicks line up. I suspect they are really more of a band on this outing, and the drummer (formerly of Sleater-Kinney) has a formidable body of work on her own (as do the others probably-my apologies).
    And that’s great–SK’s last album was really good.
    It’s a melding of ideas that I think will
    make this album more of a grower to the Malkmus fan who’s already on the bandwagon than the previous three, because perhaps there’s more band input into the final product (and the longer songs). There’s a promise of evolution here that is nothing to be afraid of, but maybe something to get into. Makes you wonder where it’s heading.
    Anyway, I’m really looking forward to seeing them live in Boston (a rare show for us east-coasters) in April. I already bought the tickets.
    Thanks for the pre-release review and the comments.

  5. Mike is the only who seems to be a true Malkmus/Pavement fan. I agree, 100 percent with him! Oh, and the album is quite good, different, unexpected but good.

    it’s Malkmus, how could it be bad? c’mon!

  6. Jessica, are you doubting me as well? If so I might have to take offense, kidding. Thanks for all the responses guy/girls!

  7. Take it as what you will: I just saw a review for this album in Rolling Stone online–4 1/2 stars. Half a star below “classic”, and the best review a rolling stone critic has given to any Malkmus solo album (Pig Lib got 4, Face the Truth got 3.5).

    On an interesting note, the reviewer said that Malkmus fans divide into Pig Lib fans or Face the Truth fans, the same way that Pavement Fans split into camps between Crooked Rain and Wowee Zowee.(i.e. do you like spacy jams or quirky song fragments etc) Personally, I honestly like all of the albums, with favorite songs dispersed among them.
    The reviewer said that Face the Truth was Malkmus’ “weirdest album”. I’m not exactly sure what this even means. When I was getting into Pavement I learned that critics did not embrace Wowee Zowee so much, saying it had a lot of “song fragments”. Sure, it had some shorter or zanier “ideas”, but the most fully fleshed out songs, like Rattled by the Rush, Father to a Sister of a
    Thought etc. were the equal of anything in Pavement’s catalogue.
    Anyway, the RS review is fun to read if, like me, you enjoy hearing someone else confirm your own opinion about how good an artist/album is (as if it should matter).
    Best line from RS Emotional Trash review:
    “a fantastic psychedelic feast, full of cosmic guitar crackle and electric piano and batshit poetry”.

  8. oh, and lest i forget, major props to gdoody. it’s easy to forget, while posting in comments, whose great and meticulous review got these comments rolling. thanks for the fun!

  9. weel, i’m listening to “real emotional trash” right now [for the 3rd time]. i think this is as good as “pig lib”. more than this, i think people should listen to “face the truth’ more carefully [songs like “no more shoes”, for example]. sometimes a real artist gotta try diferent/experimental things, don’t ya think? anyway, malkmus got great lyrics, the instrumental part in “baltimore”…beatiful. aaah, nice review, by the way.

    GLAUBEROVSKY [brazil]

  10. Very thoughtful review, I can dig it.

    This album certainly took a little while to grow on me, but personally I think its got a little bit more packed into it than his last two. Although, I absolutely adore those albums as well. It seems obvious to me that the Jicks are playing along with Malkmus, and Weiss’ drumming is just amazing.

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