Picks and Pans Review: Stephen Malkmus

updated 02/12/2001 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/12/2001 AT 01:00 AM EST

Stephen Malkmus (Matador)

Ever heard of the band Pavement? If not, you're hardly alone. The kings of 1990s college rock did not sell millions of albums, but they certainly attracted a core of devoted fans with their intelligently groovy sound before they broke up two years ago. This first solo project from Malkmus, the group's lead singer and songwriter, makes a fine introduction.

Malkmus has shed Pavement's muddy-sounding guitars for a snappier, cleaner sound. While the arch, literary-seeming lyrics are sometimes hard to decipher, the clever melodies and rhythmically complex arrangements are the musical equivalent of black licorice—a sweet, adult taste. There's something for everyone here: "Jo Jo's Jacket" has a falsetto sing-along chorus. "Phantasies" harks back to Lou Reed at his jovial, early 1970s best. "Trojan Curfew" entices with its syrupy slide guitar. Malkmus sings them all in a sly, reassuring voice that sounds as if he's letting you in on a secret. For the uninitiated, that would be his talent.

Bottom Line: Cult rocker expands his flock

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