It was a proud hour and 30 minutes for Leeds inhabitants when Stephen Malkmus and his Jicks joined the score at City Varieties – alongside Puppetry Of The Penis, The Vagina Monologues and Ken Dodd. Puppetry Of The Penis made sense. It exudes a sickly vial of provocative Formby or Randle oo-eer carry-on.
But Stephen Malkmus? In the City Varieties theatre – built in 1865, and famously one of the longest running music halls in Britain – surrounded by wartime fancy and plush red velvet? The audience seem to be a mix of football fans (“Go on Steve!”) and teenage girls.
Surreal is the word. Malkmus appears with stains down his shirt and duck tape arrows pointing to his stomach. “This is where the baby comes out!” he jokes at the Malk-thirsty crowd. The supporting Jicks are brilliant, with Sleater Kinney drummer Janet Weiss at her ineffable best, and Quasi‘s Joanna Bolme on bass. The ladies create the accomplished base for Stephen’s brilliant return to scuzzy jam.
We love him for his hour-long mumbles and lo-fi freakouts, and the newly released Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks album (which they pretty much play through), Real Emotional Trash, comprises of this and only this. Hooray.
The return to psych out departs from their shorter, poppy material in 2005’s Face The Truth; the new album is particularly Pavement, and at their experimental best. Sadly, they don’t play any actual Pavement material, but they give us most of the new album, with standout tracks Dragonfly Pie, Gardenia and Elmo Delmo, slurring through Gardenia with lyrics you can hardly hear: “So you got some curb appeal, but can you cook a three course meal? Or are you just a present waiting to be opened up or parcelled out again?”
Malkmus flops and bobs his greasy mop head haircut through the set, and in his inebriated state “shreds” (in his own word). Again and again he retains his cool when typically drunk, and his band merely laugh and carry on because he performs with such ease – this is the essence of the man. Such an unusual and brilliant performance in odd surroundings made for a superb evening, and Malkmus and the Jicks remind us what the unfinished delights of lo-fi can be in the right hands.