How does one approach Stephen Malkmus? He became an alt-icon fronting Pavement in the nineties, before going his own way with his Jicks in this century/millennium. Yet he’s also got his decided jam side, loved by the likes of Phish’s Trey Anastasio. His wandering ways can lead him into guitar jam-wankery, but can also be a fun journey. Both sides of that are on display in Sparkle Hard.
Maybe more than any record he’s released before, Sparkle is a jam record, meandering about as Malkmus goes all sorts of places. It even ends with an extended two-parter, “Difficulties – Let Them Eat Vowels”. But before that there’s “Refute”, wry, wacky story-telling almost reminiscent of “Jenny and The Ess-Dog”, just with co-vocal guest spot by none other than Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon.
Does Malkmus indulge his rambling side? Yes, and it can get a bit much at times, but he can pull it off.