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'Groove Denied' review: A method to Stephen Malkmus' madness

Stephen Malkmus' "Groove Denied" on Matador Records.

Stephen Malkmus' "Groove Denied" on Matador Records. Photo Credit: Matador Records

STEPHEN MALKMUS

Groove Denied

BOTTOM LINE The Pavement frontman goes solo and electro

Don’t let the opening moments of “Groove Denied” (Matador) fool you. Stephen Malkmus has not gone all Yeezus on you, no matter what all the blooping synths and electronic pulses of “Belziger Faceplant” may suggest.

Sure, there’s a bit of Pete Shelley drama in the gorgeous “A Bit Wilder” and the simple synthesizer melodies are a long ways away from the Pavement alt-rock classic “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain,” which turned 25 in February. But there’s a method to Malkmus’ seeming madness.

The stark electronic backgrounds early on, crafted and produced by Malkmus himself, force a focus on his lyrics and phrasing in a way that a full-band arrangement would not. And yes, there is a groove, especially in the icy first single “Viktor Borgia” and the wild “Rushing the Acid Frat,” which merges the album’s electronics with Malkmus’ more expected, guitar-driven side.

By the time we reach the “Ocean of Revenge,” a stunning tale of a Scottish indentured servant who murders his Mississippi plantation owner, and the melancholy closer “Grown Nothing,” the combination seems natural. With “Grown Nothing,” Malkmus sounds ready to embrace his next chapter, with Roxy Music maturity and flair, and the acceptance of “You were the fizz” before the album fades out.

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