Way back in 1993, Pavement released a perfectly twangy Billy Corgan diss track called “Range Life”. The song also notably tied the loose ends between Gram Parsons and Morrissey half a decade before Ryan Adams got credit for inventing alt-country and all that. A similar kick and bang, yellowed out like hay, opens “Refute,” the latest single from Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus and his seventh album with the Jicks. A honky-tonk piano plonks along and an urgent harmonica wheezes with force before Malkamus’s own voice announces a slightly meta-tale of love lost. By the time he’s out the door, the twang melts seamlessly into a gorgeous glam rock chorus that sounds like T.Rex’s “Get It On” sewn of gold.
He is joined midway, by fellow ‘90s scenester Kim Gordon who tells an equally campy tale of a bored suburban discontent who runs away with her au pair. Malkamus likes writing this kind of stuff in his post-Pavement career – he’s has been flexing his capacity to spin expressive yarns with a playful sense of style that should put Colin Meloy to shame (see: “Craw Song”). Kim’s working around Malkamus’s language kind of has the effect of Rebecca Cash on “Feminine Effects,” a startled, open-eyed sincerity. Sure, “Refute” would probably be a bigger deal if Malkmus cashed his check with Lorde on it but, as is, it’s as perfect as anything else on the chiller side of 2011’s Mirror Traffic.
Sparkle Hard is out May 18th on Matador.