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Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks: Mirror Traffic

Matador

It should come as no surprise that Beck is outstanding behind the boards. Mirror Traffic is the second high-profile release the mad Scientologist has produced this year - the first being Thurston Moore's excellent Demolished Thoughts. But the production is only half of what elevates this album above its peers. Y'all, Stephen Malkmus has gotten his groove back. Dunno if it was the Pavement reunion or what, but the guy hasn't sounded this energized and on point since Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. His new outing with the Jicks - who expertly guide these songs through dark spaces into bright, weird sunlight - explodes with instant classics, like the rocking "Senator," wherein the titular protagonist's yearnings for oral sex are rendered less seedy and controversial than downright patriotic. Indeed, Malkmus' greatest strength is his deceptive All-American Boy-ness, and he uses it to supreme winking effect here, revealing the many flaws of the world's greatest country while reveling in its squalid splendor. (5 out of 5 stars)