Album: Sparkle Hard
. . .
Pavement was never all that prolific when they were together — five albums, plus a handful of EPs and non-album singles — and so it’s no surprise that Stephen Malkmus basically released an album every couple of years in the early aughts, which slipped to every three years and then, between 2014’s Wig Out at Jagbags and 2018’s Sparkle Hard, four years.
But it was totally worth the wait, as Sparkle Hard showed absolutely zero drop in quality. And perhaps some of that could be chalked up to absence making the heart grow fonder — I’m always going to have room for his songs, voice and guitar in my life — it’s also because there were songs as compelling as the artsy closer “Difficulties / Let Them Eat Vowels” and the first single, “Middle America,” which is one of those songs that remind me exactly why I’ll always have room his songs, voice and guitar. Oh yeah, and his lyrics, too.
Blame stops until you do
Blame stops until you do
Do your major duty
And crawl right back again
Time gets to me and I
The heir apparent just might try
You know you should be winning
Time won’t wait for you
Whether or purpose or not, the verses of “Middle America” come across as a faster version of Slanted and Enchanted’s “Here,” a straight-ahead folksy strum with his lead guitar doing counterpoint on the verses and then singing harmonies on the choruses, which come on after a slight build.
Men are scum, I won’t deny
May you be shit-faced the day you die
And be successful in all your lies
In the wintertime, in the wintertime
When we get down to it, you wanted to
And while “Middle America” is kind of understated, it’s also incredibly lovely, and the repeated “in the wintertime, in the wintertime” kinda reminds me of a Pavement song that I can’t remember which one though it might be “Range Life,” or it might not be. I guess it’s a good sign that it reminds me of a Pavement song but I can’t remember which one. In any event, Stephen Malkmus can perform songs like this until the end of time and I’ll be just fine with it.
“Middle America” Live on KEXP, 2018
“Middle America” Live Acoustic, 2018
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