Matt on Music: Pixies and Pavement, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks

Pixies and Pavement are arguably the two most important bands in the history of American indie-rock. Both had sounds that went back and forth between pretty and brutal, and both had consistent discographies.

Now, Pixies are releasing new material for the first time in over 20 years, and Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus is continuing to record with the much inferior Jicks. How does the new material stack up? Well…

Pixies: “EP2” (self-released) If you expect a Pixies record in 2014 to be on par with anything they released between “Come On, Pilgrim” and “Tromp le Monde,” then you’ll likely be disappointed (deservedly so – don’t be so naively optimistic).

But if you refuse to give them the benefit of the doubt, you’ll miss out on four not-so-bad tracks from a band that’s at least still energetic enough to hold your attention. If you’re a fan, what have you got to lose? It’s only their second worst record. Let’s hope “EP3” is only their third worst. Grade: B

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks: “Wig Out at Jagbags” (Matador) There’s not much to complain about here. The songs are decent, the melodies are strong and he sings them well. Even the Jicks are at the top of their game, with music that ranges from delicately soulful to (dare I say it?) punk. There’s nothing to rave about either, though.

It’s Malkmus at his most comfortable which, after 2011’s awkward Beck-produced “Mirror Traffic” may not be such a bad thing. But this seems to be about as much as you can expect from Stephen Malkmus at this point, which is both the best and worst thing you can say about the album. Grade: B PLUS

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