Nearly 20 years into his post-Pavement career, I can still count on Stephen Malkmus to put out catchy indie rock with wry lyrics and occasional guitar heroics…Every. Damn. Time. But maybe Malkmus has become too consistent, settling into a ho-hum rut of excellent but indistinguishable tunes with each release?
From the backstory around it, Groove Denied seemed to be the one to shake up the formula. This record – inspired by his time living in Berlin and its electronic music scene – was supposedly too weird and off-brand for Matador to initially release, insisting on the more Malkmus-y Sparkle Hard. I, for one, was excited to hear Stephen Malkmus’ version of minimal techno. While overall I enjoyed the album, it doesn’t actually differ much from his usual work.
For the first three songs, we’re treated to sleek Human League/Gary Numan-esque dance pop, catchy songs well suited to the dry Malkmus style. After that, he puts the drum machines away and the rest of the album consists of predictably strong tunes in the style he’s mastered for years, save for the occasional synth splash. Album closer “Grow Nothing” is his prettiest ballad since 2001’s “Church on White.”
So in the end, Groove Denied is another solid Malkmus album, with the added twist of being front-loaded with a few synth pop tunes. I was disappointed that it wasn’t the radical departure it was billed to be, but more than glad to have another fine Malkmus album to put into regular rotation.
Justin is a lifelong music fan, having spent some of his best years behind the counter of a great record shop. A native New Englander, he’s lived in Colorado, New York City and is now based in Indianapolis with his wife and daughter.