My feelings about Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks' new album Sparkle Hard are pretty similar to my feelings about Malkmus output over the last almost thirty years. What I like, I like very much and what I don't, well I don't! Where Malkmus has a winning way I'd say is with a wistful melody a neat but probably largely meaningless lyric and a gently loping tune that maintains momentum, so whereas I'm more than happy with Here, Gold Soundz, Folk Jam, Cut Your Hair, Shady Lane and Date w/ IKEA, I have little time for Stereo, We Dance, Rattled By The Rush, Grounded or Conduit For Sale where he wanders wilfully into absolute wilderness. Just because he can. My reading of Sparkle Hard conforms very much to the script. Some of it's good, some of it is downright sloppy.
As virtually patron saint for the Pitchfork site and the generation it represents, Malkmus won't be worrying about what I think. He has a guaranteed constituency vote that will ensure he gets re-elected back into the Indie Pantheon just as long as he chooses to stand for re-election. For me I'd say when he tries to move me I'm moved, because I think this is the core to his songwriting gift. When he tries to show me how clever he is and impress me, I'm not impressed and sometimes get downright irritated. At least he and I are both consistent. He in terms of his records and me in terms of my reaction to them. I'd direct you to Solid Silk, Middle America, Brethren and Refute as the best moments on here and Bike Lane as the lowpoint. Not because it's a bad tune but because it's when Malkmus decides to make political comment on the death of Freddy Gray an African American who died at the hands of the police in 2015. He shouldn't trespass on territory like this really. Having spent almost three decades pretending not to care this almost comes across as a case of bad taste even though I don't doubt his sincerity.