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.
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.
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.