With Wig Out at Jagbags, Stephen Malkmus has now made more full-length albums with the Jicks than he did with Pavement. So it's probably time to stop reflexively comparing everything he does with his new band to what he did with his old band. But if you're anything like me, if you grew up memorizing Wowee Zowee, this cannot be done.
When I hear the affected warble in Malkmus' voice, I expect to hear Pavement's laconic and urgent take on classic rock. But when it's a Jicks album, like Wig Out at the Jagbags, I get something elsesomething impossible to anticipate. "Lariat", a three-minute pop song with dumb-fun lyrics such as "We lived on Tennyson/ and venison/ and the Grateful Dead," would probably sound best in your beat-up sedan, with the windows rolled down. Then, in a completely different vein, there's "J Smoov," a sleepy R&B track with a catchy horn part and swelling electronic-sounding strings.
I won't pretend to have listened to every Jicks album, front to back, but Wig Out at Jagbags is the best I've heard. There are a few misses like "Rumble at the Rainbo," a preening and often irritating rock song featuring some majorly out-of-place ska riffs. But mostly it's hits, right where Malkmus has always aimed: at your teenage brain, where being clever and having fun are the same thing.
Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks play the Top Hat Sat., April 5, at 9 PM along with Speedy Ortiz. $18/$16 at Rockin Rudy's and tophatlounge.com. 18-plus.