The return of ’90s rock

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks
“Real Emotional Trash”
4.5 out of 5 stars

The boys over at Matador Records, the home of Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, say this record verifies that Malkmus remains a ridiculously hot guitarist. To be honest, that statement is not far from the truth. Malkmus originally rose to prominence as one of the founding members and front man for the band Pavement, one of the most influential and beloved musical outfits of the ’90s. Now 41, the elder statesman of ’90s indie-rock has returned with his fourth solo record and one of the stronger efforts of his career.

A share of the praise has to go to this iteration of the Jicks, who may be the best collective of musicians Malkmus has had behind him since his Pavement days. Most notable is the addition of former Sleater-Kinney and current Quasi drummer Janet Weiss, who gives the group the extra drive and backbone that helps to define the songs. But nothing can subtract from Malkmus’ songwriting and fuzzed-out twisting guitar stylings. Malkmus may not be the fanciest guitarist today but is certainly one of the most emotionally forceful.

Key Tracks: “Cold Son,” “Baltimore,” “We Can’t Help You”

Gutter Twins
3.5 out of 5 stars

The Gutter Twins is a collaboration between Mark Lanegan, former front man for ’90s grunge outfit Screaming Trees and charter member of Queens of the Stone Age, and Greg Dulli, current front man for the Afghan Whigs and the Twilight Singers.

“Saturnalia” is a dark, powerful record that oozes with hedonistic sentiments, both musically and vocally. Dulli’s soaring vocals are on full display once again, though they are a bit restrained compared to the last Twilight Singers record, while Lanegan’s gravelly baritone provides a nice contrast throughout. Musically, the biting electric guitar lines and ominous backdrops of sound fit most of the songs well. Overall it’s a good record and works most of the way through, though I think I prefer the last few Twilight Singers records over this collaboration.

Key Tracks: “Each to Each,” “Idle Hands,” “Bete Noir”