When Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks announced their new album Sparkle Hard, the big news was that it included a song with Kim Gordon. In Pavement and Sonic Youth, Malkmus and Gordon were out front of two of history’s most beloved and important indie rock bands (incidentally, both of which featured Mark Ibold on bass at one point), so the prospect of a collaboration between the two of them — another collaboration, we should say, since Malkmus participated in the short-lived Sonic Youth side project Kim’s Bedroom in 1999 — was immensely appealing.
Well, it’s here! “Refute” is a twangy rambler about love and aging, replete with fiddle and pedal steel yet unmistakably Malkmus in sentiment and construction. Malkmus has joked(?) about asking Lorde to sing on the track instead of Gordon, which would have cast lyrics like “Marry on, children, but beware/ The world doesn’t want you anymore” in a very different light. As it stands, we have two legendary elders of underground rock cramming a zillion meaningful reflections into a couple quick character portraits.
Also, given that Gordon’s ex-husband and former Sonic Youth co-leader Thurston Moore left her for the co-founder of his book imprint, these first Malkmus lyrics seem pretty loaded: “This is a verse about a man who dared/ To fall head over heels for a woman who shared/ Similar interests, similar looks/ Similar taste in similar books.” But hey, maybe that’s just a coincidence. Even if you omit that dimension, “Refute” is lovely and multifaceted, rich with emotion even as (in typical Malkmus fashion) it evades a simple interpretation. Listen below.
In addition to releasing “Refute” today, the Jicks have shared a Sparkle Hard rejected album art and playlist generator. It’s dubbed “How Hard Do You Sparkle?” and features absurdist questions penned by Malkmus (as if there are other kinds of questions penned by Malkmus). They contain references to Katy Perry, alt-right commentator Mike Cernovich, NFL lunkhead Rob Gronkowski, Bob (and Jakob!) Dylan, and many more. Once it is determined how hard you sparkle, you’ll be curated a playlist of Jicks tracks to tide you over until the new album’s release. Check it out at howharddoyousparkle.com.
Sparkle Hard is out 5/18 on Matador.