Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - Wig Out at Jagbags | Album Review | By Volume

Gotta get out, before my heart explodes. Candy Says - Not Kings
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Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks

Wig Out at Jagbags

Stephen and the Jicks do it for the kids. And it’s good. So we’re all lucky.

Comments (1)
Author: on January 14, 2014
7.6
Matador

Nothing like a Double Quarter Pounder (with cheese) to get those ‘napses a-firing, right? So here I am, pre-review, in McDonalds, Sunday’s Order 366, twiddling, pacing, waiting for that righteous #5 Medium Combo Meal. Leaning forward on the counter, also in anticipation, is a corpulent fellow, Order 367, snug in a blue-and-white striped polo but freer in his Taftpants, white-haired beneath an awkwardly teensy fedora, who tries to snag my tray. “It’s the same as mine”, he protests with mirthful lack of embarrassment, “it’s really all the same”. After filling up on soda, I pass him, like Purgatorio’s Dante superseding Virgil in an American rewrite of hilariously lessened stakes; the man, now chomping away at his freedom fries, has ordered a mere Quarter Pounder. My first thought: I’ve found him at last, here is Jagbag in the flesh, out-jagged, out-bagged. So let’s get wiggy with it.

According to Micronesic lore, Jagbag opened Jagbags Gentlemens Club (Micronesian internationalists harboring historic disrespect for possessive apostrophes) sometime in the late 1990’s. Stephen Malkmus, who dated Jagbag’s adopted sister Togram for half the duration of a disastrous school mixer, nevertheless kept in contact with Jaggy even following his family’s public shaming and eventual deportation to Oceania. Pavement recorded their swan song, Terror Twilight, there, at the J.G.C. Don’t believe the liner notes. Most of Malkmus’ post-Pavement career, in fact – namely his work with the Jicks – has been informed by his experiences among multitudes of Pacific archipelagos. Not until now, though, with Wig Out at Jagbags, has Malkmus opened up about his middle-age purlieus and, as we must assume, paradise lost. Why else would indie rock’s most candid ironist be so…secretive? (The Palauan people’s famed manioc rum-cake, after all, the likes of which Malkmus surely tasted, has been described by countless food columnists as “reason number one to write manic, persuasive postcards to everyone back home”.)

Look no further than McDonald’s, the endpoint of Jagbags’ rainbow, and the sad pot of nuggets it has to offer: a dumpy prize from the Other Side, teased us by stretches of fading spectral colours. “This one’s for you, Granddad”, a punky voice intones to kick off album highlight “Rumble at the Rainbo” – the missing “W”, so I’m told, signifying an upside-down “M”, invoking thereby both Micronesia and the fast food chain in question while upholding Malkmus’ whimsical obsession with inversion. To fully appreciate these three seconds of intro, and the nostalgic ninety-nine more that follow, one must remind himself of the classic Wordsworth poem:

My heart leaps up when I behold

A rainbow in the sky;

So it was when my life began;

So it is now I am a man;

So be it when I shall grow old,

Or let me die!

The Child is the father of the Man;

I could wish my days to be

Bound each to each by natural piety”.

The reciprocal relationship between artist and audience, mouth and ear, Man and Child, has ever been a hobbyhorse of literate singer-songwriters. Stephen Malkmus is no exception. The humorous shout-out heard at the beginning of “Rainbo” is no more intended for an actual grandfather than it is for Malkmus, himself a young bizarro sort-of-gramps who’s seen ‘em all, man, from siren-like summer babes to glum jam-kids. It’s meant for us, too, his errant grand-kids regardless of age. This is no dad-rock affair. We gather ‘round as kiddos to the coolest of cool birthday-party magicians, as Stephen Malkmus and his Jicks take out their various wigs, and commence stories of freedom, of independence, of escape from a place called Jagbags. A disappearing act…because when he half-sings, half-chants the words, “I’d like to move to Micronesia” in “Surreal Teenagers”, Wig Out’s neat-o final ditty, we know what he means. He’d rather be anywhere but there. Except Houston. Houston is Hades.

If anything, Wig Out at Jagbags should prove anew, as artists often must when working from within footnote bands, what Malkmus does best: he crafts topical prisons (consider late-album cut “Independence Street” as an example) solely to break free of them. He’s no longer making music for himself, though; it’s for the children, so they too can grow up “listening to the music from the best decade ever”. Which one? Oh, does it really even matter anymore? Though it lacks the sparkle and carbonation present on previous Jicks outings and begins overfizzing around “Scattegories”, which achieves by way of random association a pretty stupid Condoleezza Rice pun, the same sly magic of Malkmus’ holds its spell for the majority of its forty-two-minute runtime. It’s a fine substitute for whatever intoxicant financed Jagbag’s house of sin, now defunct, by the way. If you’re curious to know what happened, go try to find him. Get lost. Jagbags are everywhere, of all shapes and sizes. See for yourself.

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  • nelroy

    I love this, but in regards to Lariat you asked “which decade?” May I submit though, that right after that line he says “-talkin ’bout the ADDs” (the “Eightie-ties?”) He also references 2 albums and one band (Mudhoney) in one of the lines of the song, all from the 80s. No?
    I wanted to know where the “This one’s for you, GRANDDAAAAAD!” sample came from.

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