Maybe it’s an inevitable occurrence at a Jicks concert considering what we get and what we don’t. All I know is it happened at SOhO last Monday, about halfway through a 15-plus song blissfest with one long jammy encore.During the stream of rich and strange between-song Malkmus raps, a woman came out with it. “We love you,” piped the female voice, and then pressed on. “We loved Pavement years ago and okay, we love the Jicks now.
“Okay, mom,” replied Malkmus, adding his own semi-coherent banter to the loving heckler’s — something about doing whippets backstage back in the day and that she, and by extension, the audience, ought to get over it. That was then, was the gist of Malkmus’s jokey rejoinder, and the Jicks is now.
But what I want is someone to explain the difference to me. Of course, I miss songs from the Pavement cannon that obsessed me through all of 1998 — basically, all of Brighten the Corners. But here, beginning with “Tigers” (after a short, inititially sweet, though somewhat one-note set by opening act Nurses) were all the Malkmus tune hallmarks; the driving rhythms, the beautifully heart-felt hooks, changing time signatures ending in propulsive rock outs. The 40-somethings were twitching in pleasurable time, even if they missed Pavement. And then those patented lyrics, which, like a Seinfeld episode, manage to be insightful about nothing. Who else in rock ‘n’ roll can sing non sequiturs and stream of consciousness with such resolve? He’s got songs about being “enveloped in your sticker shock,” and he rhymes “bourgeoisie” with “my honey” without sounding pretentious or fake. In “Hook’” the third song in Monday night’s set, Malkmus even provided some help. “It’s a pirate song,” he said. “Are pirates still in? I don’t live in America anymore, but when I lived in Oregon pirates were in until they mated with vampires.” Malkmus, with his naturally disruptive rock ‘n’ roll spirit and loose-limbed guitar attacks, is simply the real thing, whether Pavement or Jick.
At times a new sound emerged subtly, like a weirdly strong Television influence (go figure) in songs like “Forever 28” and “Stick Figures in Love.” But warmed up, the distinctions became moot again. “Senator,” “Scategories,” and some unidentified song with a howling refrain of “real teenagers” were it — transcendent songwriting. He ended with a long decisive jam that managed to include Velvet Underground and the Doors’ great apocalyptic poem “The End.” People like to talk about pure art forms; pure cinema or pure painting. If anything is pure rock, it’s probably Stephen Malkmus.