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Album Review
Mirror Traffic

Mirror Traffic
by Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks


Review Date
15th November 2011
Reviewed by
Benjii Jackson

It's fair to say that Stephen Malkmus is one of the most prolific songwriters in modern day musical history. With Pavement, the band are frequently regarded as “lo-fi” heroes in the same breath as Robert Pollard and his outfit Guided By Voices. Much like Pollard, Malkmus' bulk of work extends not just in the confines of one set outfit but as a solo(ish) musician in his own right. With The Jicks, the lo-fidelity is still a prominent aspect in his work, but askews Pavement's style with that of a more “free-range” formula – darting around, americana and what some might term AOR...

That Malkmus has an incredible body of work, Mirror Traffic worryingly indicates that perhaps the metaphorical pen is drying up... and when songs start to contain references to blowjobs, the warning bells are tolling quite loudly. But it's not always about the lyricisms of Malkmus and The Jicks is it. It's always more so the musicianship with him and whichever band he is performing with. Said song, “Senator”, is classic Malkmus – that quasi Antipodean sound you've come to expect from him addled with both college rock and power-pop moments. It's worrying though that listening to the album the cynic seems to rear it's ugly head and deem the album, well, formulaic.

I mean, if it's not broken, don't fix it. But sometimes a new lick of paint can refresh something a little. “Spazz” and “All Over Gently” are one of many good songs on the album but you can't help but feel you've heard something very, very similar on previous The Jicks albums. Having said that, there are some stand out tracks amongst the mammoth 15 strong track list. In particular, the spacey “Jumblegloss”, which segues into “Asking Price”, drenched in Americana. But it's the familiar traits from Stephen that work the best - “Stick Figures In Love” and “Tune Grief” winning favors for Pavement fans everywhere.

It's a good album and no one can fault Malkmus for writing a catchy song – it'd be unfair to call it “more of the same” or “by the numbers”, no matter how close it can get to those sentiments. But you do feel left wondering if at some point there might be a change that refreshes Malkmus' overall act.


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