No one can accuse Stephen Malkmus of being coy these days. He makes his intentions clear a mere 90 seconds into "Pig Lib" -- his second post-Pavement jaunt -- as jibber-jabbering voices, stumbling guitars and a buzzing drone soak through the speakers: "If madness comes, so much the better Ã? touche." The ensuing 46 minutes bear this out in proggy, stoner-friendly strokes; it's a welcome change from Malkmus's solo debut, which played like a brighter, sillier Pavement album. Malkmus, bassist Joanna Bolme, drummer John Moen and keyboardist/guitarist Mike Clark turn out jam-prone, classic-rock-flavored nuggets that goof darkly and complement each other in a way no Malkmus-crafted set has since Pavement's "Wowee Zowee." A mellow, head-trip travelogue, "Ramp of Death" ambles hallucinogenically; warped, flagellating axe licks flare from "Sheets"; "1% of 1," a nine-minute tour favorite, veers from Renaissance romp to full-borne skronk and back. "Us," where Malkmus, Bohme and Moen harmonize together like Yo La Tengo over aggressive folk chords, sticks out like a sore thumb -- but at least it arrives at the end, once the black lights have been switched off and the incense lit.
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