It’s always challenging for a solo artist to avoid the legacy of his former glories (think Morrissey, Ian Brown and ……. Robbie Williams) but with his third solo outing ex Pavement front man Stephen Malkmus seems set to do just that.
‘Face The Truth’ arrives armed with the usual collection of guitar driven melodies that have always been the backbone of his work. A more recent and refreshing twist however, is SP’s new found love for dabbling with electronic instrumentation. Without ever becoming overpowering, the album seems to be an excuse for Malkmus to discover the many toys he received last Christmas. This is beautifully demonstrated in the first 20 seconds of the album, as an unorganised and seemingly chaotic set of sounds blend together to make the perfect introduction to a standard Malkmus melody in ‘Pencil Rot.’ Elsewhere on the album there are some of the most fulfilling solos since Wilco’s ‘A Ghost is Born,’ notably on ‘It Kills’ and the 8 minute epic ‘No More Shoes.’ Beginning life as an Elliot Smith lullaby, this album highlight soon escapes into 5 minutes of rock excess which would discourage even the most hardened prog rockers, were it not executed so perfectly. Elsewhere, ‘Mama’ is a candid insight into family life and contains some of the most beautiful lines of the album, and shouted anthem ‘Baby C’Mon’ really shouldn’t work, but somehow does by never taking itself too seriously.
There are some disappointments. ‘Loud Cloud Crowd’ is a failed attempt at disguising a poor song with layers of guitar coda’s, and ‘Malediction’ doesn’t quite fit the bill as a suitable album closer. However, these are simply trivial observations. Through building on past accomplishments rather than trying to copy them, Malkmus has managed to produce an album which combines his coming of age with his naïve and playful approach at making new sounds. It won’t replace pavement’s classic ‘Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain,’ but it’ll sure look good sat alongside it.
Originally published on www.gigwise.com