Backstage yesterday evening at Amoeba Records in Hollywood, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks were waiting for Beck. In just 10 minutes, the indie-rock quartet were to perform a quick in-store concert to celebrate yesterday’s release of Mirror Traffic, which Beck produced. It was the first collaboration between these two Nineties alt-rock icons, but Malkmus still couldn’t believe that Beck would actually make the drive up from Malibu. “He must have something to do here today, like maybe a dentist’s appointment,” he told Rolling Stone. “But he said he’s coming. He’s a nice guy.”
The new album was recorded just blocks away at Sunset Sound – and with Mirror Traffic, the Jicks have now recorded as many albums as Malkmus did with Pavement. Doesn’t his current band have some younger fans more familiar with his work in the Jicks than that other band from the Nineties? “We do. All seven of them are on our message board,” he joked, as the band cracked up. “I’m kidding.”
Malkmus, bassist Joanna Bolme, guitarist-keyboadrist Mike Clark and new drummer Jake Morris begin a U.S. tour on September 20th at Detroit’s Majestic Theater, the first since Malkmus’ 2010 reunion tour with Pavement. They will perform no Pavement songs. “The legacy of Pavement is hard to get over. Not that we want to. We’re more about right now,” he said, adding, “The most important time in your life is now. I’m a motivational speaker. We’re going to stretch out some covers and make it a fun hour and a half [show].”
Dressed casually in a white Die Kreuzen T-shirt and khaki shorts, Malkmus slumped on a backstage couch and said he’s come to accept blame for inventing the idea of the “slacker,” though he points to 1991’s Slacker movie director Richard Linklater as a more likely suspect. “I don’t think it’s necessarily a negative term,” he said. “There are worse things you could be. You could be psychotic, an ax-murderer, a politician.”
Onstage, Malkmus told fans to “feel free to browse” the record store aisles as they played, and opened with “Tigers,” the first song from the new album. “Stick Figures in Love” was brighter and speedier, Malkmus’ voice rising as he slashed at his guitar, playing with casual abandon.
Then came “Senator,” and the end of an online contest to replace the word “blowjob” in the new song (which includes the inspirational line: “The senator wants a blowjob”). “This word is not suitable for people, uh, under five,” Malkmus deadpanned.
The chosen new word of the moment was “corndog,” partly in tribute to the Minutemen, who referred to themselves “as fucking corndogs from Pedro” in their classic 1984 song “History Lesson – Part 2.” Malkmus sang: “The senator wants a corndog . . . Everyone wants a corndog.”
The half-hour, six-song performance was soon over. Malkmus said his goodbyes and joined the band at a nearby table to sign copies of the new album. Beck had seen the whole thing.
Watch the full performance of Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks at Amoeba Music below.