Alternative rock overlord Stephen Malkmus descends on Burg Schnabel for a rare Berlin show on 26th September.
For indie nerds like myself, weaned on the sardonic and neurotic romanticism of 90s alternative rock, a gig by Stephen Malkmus takes on a kind of religious quality. An alumnus of the legendary Pavement, guitarist for the Silver Jews and latterly the frontman of the Jicks, Malkmus boasts an intimidating and labyrinthine back-catalogue that rewards intrepid listeners. Even his bad albums are great albums. A solo outing at Burg Schnabel, to promote more recent ‘electronic’ expirements, promises to showcase his remarkable musical and lyrical talents. We at indieBerlin weren’t going to let up the chance to join the congregation for this one.
1994’s ‘Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain’ established Pavement, with Malkmus as frontman, as a powerhouse of the emergent US alternative scene. It is ranked 212 on Rolling Stone’s greatest albums of all time, and with good reason. With devilish musical hooks and lyrics veering between witty and heartbreaking, it remains essential listening. Pavement’s influence is pronounced in bands such as the Parquet Courts and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Having released consistently well-received albums with the Jicks, including last year’s ‘Sparkle Hard’, Malkmus hasn’t faded into obscurity. He was even behind the unshakeable ear worm that is the opening title credit’s to Will Arnett’s 2016 Netflix show ‘Flaked’.
The passing this year of the Silver Jews’ Dave Berman necessitated a revisit of their 1994 ‘American Water’ album, on which Malkmus played guitar. A deeply sad loss, Berman’s death also threw into harsh light how that generation of trailblazers for alternative music have aged. For example, Guided by Voices this summer restricted their touring almost entirely to festivals. With fewer and fewer opportunities to see these greats and to pay respect to their music and its legacy, this show should be unmissable. The legacy of Malkmus and co have seeped into the fabric of indie and alternative music culture. And we should celebrate that.