Music Review: Stephen Malkmus' Real Emotional Trash

by Vincent Lee

In 1999, the band Pavement (led by Stephen Malkmus) went on a hiatus, which is more or less regarded as a break up. Since then, the singer who led Pavement has released various solo projects (at least six with three different backing bands). Malkmus' latest, Real Emotional Trash, brings back memories of Pavement, while maintaining itself as a good album in its own right.

In several senses, Real Emotional Trash could be considered a jam album. Out of the ten songs, only three are under four minutes, with a majority being over five. The title track itself spans ten minutes, which takes up nearly one-fifth of the entire album’s length. Yet nowhere in these fifty minutes does the album get dreary or numbing. Everything transitions and remains perfectly cohesive throughout.

However, as great as this sounds, this is also the album's downfall. Nothing distinguishes itself. Outside of the title track, no particular song is of real note. Each song stands on its own, but not in a distinguishing or noteworthy manner. This downfall is the one that was similarly recurrent with most of Pavement’s albums. The album does not suffer greatly in an extremely negative way, but it prevents Real Emotional Trash from being a stand out. Moreover, the lyrics are not as witty or playful as the typical Pavement album. This is not to say they are severely lacking, but certainly not up to Malkmus' usual standard.

However, Real Emotional Trash is a very good album in many respects. Pavement fans will most likely enjoy this album. In general, fans of indie rock will most likely find this album enjoyable too. Through and through, Real Emotional Trash is an above average jam album, with fun and interesting hooks. It may not be groundbreaking or unique and dynamic, but it is still very worthy of a purchase or listen.

(The photo of Stephen Malkmus in 2000 is from Matador Records and © Moses Berkson; the photographer and music label allow use of this copyrighted material with this copyright credit. Malkmus begins his 2008 tour on March 18 in Minneapolis. To see Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks playing "Out of Reaches" from Real Emotional Trash at a sound check at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco in December of 2007, please check below.)

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