Published Mar 12, 2019When the rumours that Stephen Malkmus recorded an electronic album began to surface, longtime fans weren't just curious about how it would sound, but how it would be received. But the truth is, Groove Denied is a quintessentially typical Malkmus album. It may seem ludicrous to call a piece of work that completely ditches everything the California slack rocker built his career on typical, but sometimes the life is ludicrous.
Originally shelved by Matador in favour of releasing last year's terrific Sparkle Hard, Malkmus' eighth solo LP was written during his early '00s residency in Berlin, and recently recorded in Oregon. Although his Berlin years weren't as legendary as David Bowie's, they nonetheless resulted in some of Stephen's most adventurous and challenging music of his career. Recorded on Ableton Live, Malkmus was able to give this ten-track LP a skeletal darkwave feel, akin to primitive '70s/early '80s electronics utilized by artists from Can to Psychic TV.
The album kicks off with the promise of something grand, as opener "Belziger Faceplant" is a slightly contained noise freakout that locks into a perfectly sloppy groove. Moving into the Peter Hook-y bass line of album standout "A Bit Wilder," Malkmus begins to let loose lyrically and musically, as bouncy single "Viktor Borgia" and the downbeat spoken-word piece "Forget Your Place" come off unlike anything he's produced.
The second half of Groove Denied, starting with the second single "Rushing the Acid Frat," features more familiar guitar structures. But many of the record's later tracks, like the comfortable-sounding "Boss Viscerate" and the Pavement-with-drum-machines-and-horns "Ocean of Revenge" come off exceptionally average. Groove Denied isn't the game-changer fans hoped for, but it's also not the disaster Matador expected. It's just your average Stephen Malkmus album… now with more electronics! (Matador)