Stephen Malkmus opens up Real Emotional Trash with the line: "Of all my stoned digressions‚ some of them have mutated into the truth-not a spoof." Lyrics have always been somewhat of the line in the sand between Pavement fans and those who just don't get it‚ and Malkmus seems to acknowledge that here. But what he's really acknowledging is the fact that reality can arise from nonsense‚ beauty from disaster‚ and is essentially presenting the modern Western dogma that it only matters what things are‚ not how they came to be. Or maybe the line itself is just another stoned digression‚ and that dubiety is how the S.M. love affair can begin.
"Hopscotch Willie" gets moving quickly‚ and fans will instantly notice something new about the band: motherfucking Janet Weiss on drums. The Sleater Kinney drummer brings a new level of solidity to the Jicks-enough so that for only the second time in his four solo releases‚ Malkmus is confident enough to include the band's name on the album cover. As he machine guns into the solo here‚ he' s playing with a conviction‚ ferocity‚ and level of comfort that he hasn't laid to wax in a solid decade. With easily the most solid skin-thumper he's ever had backing him in his career‚ S.M. is willing to stretch out the majority of these tunes into mini-epics. "Hopscotch" could have been a potential dragger on previous albums‚ but Miss Weiss pours concrete over the whole form and helps it break down to nothing before it rages back in all its post-slacker glory.
Echoes of Pavement are more present then on prior solo stuff‚ but again‚ Malkmus would never have been comfortable enough with the old guys to go as deep as he does here. The title track starts off like a lost cut off Wowee Zowee‚ but rather brilliantly journeys to the 10-minute mark. Beyond anthemic‚ to nearly ritual-inducing‚ some of these songs are big and crafted to swallow you whole. "Baltimore" evolves from an eerie sea chantey into a rock pumper that thoroughly entices anyone's inner air-guitarist. As S.M.'s guitar prowess has always been undercut by his songwriting and own eccentricities‚ he's proving here that just won't stand anymore. The axe-shreddage is everywhere on Real Emotional Trash‚ and upon repeated listens‚ he's definitely achieved a seductive Oregonian touch that is all his own‚ and nearly impossible not to love. "Elmo Delmo" reaches a point of controlled feedback that sounds like what Neil Young would do if he became bored with his own music.
Despite the allure of the electric string attack‚ longtime Malkmus fans will still be most moved by that familiar‚ clear voice. "We Can't Help You" hits hard for this gushing journalist‚ and starts with the lines: "There's no common goal/There's no moral action/There's no modern age from which to run away." This is music by the independents for the independents‚ and the more you let it in‚ the more it seems to become all your own. Always in firm denial of his near mythic indie-rock status‚ on closer "Wiked Wanda‚" S.M. sings‚ "Break out of your co-categories" and then proceeds to politely molest his guitar. With songs like these‚ I wouldn't hold your breath for that Pavement reunion happening anytime soon.