Stephen Malkmus – “Groove Denied” Album Review

posted March 18, 2019 in Arts & Entertainment, CommRadio by Matthew Dunn

“Darling don’t you go and cut your hair, do you think it’s gonna make him change?”

Malkmus, not on his newest release “Groove Denied,” but from his days with Pavement perhaps the quintessential 90s indie punk-rock outfit. In order to wrap one’s head around this newest release, it is important to understand where our front man has journeyed, from raw unfiltered punk in his youth, to award-winning folk just last year with The Jicks, to a now unconventional take on combining his vast knowledge of music with an ethereal electronic sound.

Spawned from the inspirations of what Malkmus called a “horrifying MDMA trip” back in 1987, these tracks have all been completed over different periods of time since, being re-polished and re-mastered all into one cohesive release.

To cut to the chase, the album is good, almost painfully so, as if it has no right to be. The kicks are off-beat and Malkmus is at times very off-key, but there is this rawness and earnest tinge in his voice that lets you know the effect is sincere.

The initial teaser track for the album “Viktor Borgia” plays like Paul McCartney’s “Temporary Secretary” and it was received as such too. There were barely any publications praising the work, yet, as the album unfolded and that same song began to play, the listeners collectively sighed with a “I get it now.”

There are moments on the album such as “Come Get Me” where the listener is met with Malkmus’ roots and, as much fun as drum machines and synth beats can be, this is where the album shines brightest. Layered with drowned guitars and a pluck of the sitar, it is an absolute joy to hear.

Same goes for the country-twanged “Rushing the Acid Frat." If there was any question as to whether or not this is Malkmus’ self-expression record, this track is the answer. With pure maximalism being brought out in production, one can tell that Stephen simply had a lot of fun taking from uncharted waters and piecing together a work such as this.

The album saves easily the best for last with “Grown Nothing," a somewhat self-deprecative piece that plays like an open journal. It is both disheartening and comforting to hear the musings of a 52-year-old iconoclast as he reaches out to family, be it blood or simply a close friend.

“Uncle Matt / Where you been, man? I know / I've been trying to get back to you / It's been decades and I have missed you / You were the man / Every woman wanted you / Richest and the poorest, too / In between and I can't do what you did.” Perhaps not the most prophetic lyrics one could imagine, but it’s the honesty in thought that Malkmus is able to portray throughout his career that allows the albums more eclectic and earnest moments to be cherished one in the same.

Rating: 7/10

Reviewer’s Favorite Track(s): Grown Nothing / Come Get Me

Reviewer’s Least Favorite Track: Forget Your Place

 

 

Matthew Dunn is a junior majoring in print journalism. To contact him, email mzd5424@psu.edu.