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If you’ve never heard Stephen Malkmus, you might want to begin with one of the more accessible of his four solo albums, be it the self-titled debut or 2005’s watertight Face the Truth. But if you’re familiar with his individual work or that of his former band, Pavement, Real Emotional Trash will settle right in as the next chapter of the eccentric Portlander’s prolificacy. Leading the Jicks this time is ex-Sleater-Kinney drummer (and backing vocalist) Janet Weiss, who–while she never lets loose to pound her skins to oblivion–does manage to reel in the band on extended jams like that of the intricate “Elmo Delmo,” a bluesy murder yarn called “Hopscotch Willie,” or the sprawling 10-minute title track. Malkmus’s guitar fixation tends to overshadow his roguish, pop-sharp song craft this time around, with fewer catchy choruses and more axe-driven bypasses, save for the peculiar “Cold Son” and the joyful live-show staple “Gardenia.” Then again, Trash‘s capriciousness and experimental willingness are what gave Malkmus an audience in the first place–and what promise to keep it coming back for more.

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