we like to take sides. take perth afl fans for example they are either dockers or eagles. so it has been with music across the decades. british is better than american. or so it was in the 60s some say. was there a time when american was better than british? what about the 90s. british bands oasis, blur and radiohead pushed the dial towards briton but then singlehandedly pavement swung the dial back to america as their 5 albums of that decade defined indi rock. stephen malkmus now leads the jicks and has done so since pavements split in 1999. in february this year the perth international arts festival presented stephen malkmus and the jicks at chevron gardens. the jicks released their 6th album (surpassing pavement at least numerically) wig out at jagbags in 2014. malkmus in an interview after the release of wigout stated “nothing classic is probably going on here, let’s face it” malkmus always ready to play down his status as the king of indi rock and and lo-fi is also the high priest of self effacement. so expectation ran high on this warm perth night. when malkmus walkes on stage he was straight into the banter. “how are you all feeling now your economy is not doing so good?” then he and the jicks ripped into three songs from wigout at jagbags. all cracking tunes with riffing guitars pulsing base and pounding drums. but all have the trademark rhythm changes(and sometimes stops) before whooping it up for a rocking chorus or coda.but it is the lyrics which set malkmus and the jicks appart. they are all puzzles built layer upon layer full of internal rhymes, alliterations, puns, neologisms and double entendre. opener CHARTJUNK could be a conversation between a boss talking down to his apprentice but is allegedly the coach of the milwaukee bucks nba team talking to his prima donna point guard. THE JANITOR REVEALED describes a worker and their tools (maybe a bass player in a band) and the trial and tribulations or ambition in general. lariat verges on an alt country classic. except for the lyrics which would get the jicks tarred and feathered in the southern states of america. firstly for being too obtuse and secondly for stating that beards don’t look good. lariat references the 80s as the A-D-Ds. lots more bander including a warning about sexually transmitted diseases before MAMA from album face the truth. the jicks intersperse songs from wigout and mirror traffic with a couple of older songs. the music is a fusion of 60/70/80/90s rock with a bit of alt/slacker rock but also encompassing funk, alt country, prog rock and jazz fusion. heckling is increasing from the audience directed at malkmus wanting him to play some pavement songs. eventually he puts this to rest when a particularly insistent heckler yells out for GOLD SOUNDZ one time too many. “i don’t get out of bed to play that unless your economy improves” comes the retort. then malkmus as if fearing retribution from angry pavement fans looks for reinforcements and berates the state government for unfairly targeting the lone wolf motor cycle club “all because of drugs and murder” i hope the lone wolves don’t get irony. the set ends with SURREAL TEENAGERS a mighty song which is nailed with the jicks seemingly chaotic approach while malkmus mumbles the lyrics “i’d like to move to micronesia/with my manservant john/john is ever so loyal/he’s pugnacious in that regard” but is on full throat for the chorus surreeeel-teeeennnagers-agers agers-agers. after a brief hiatus they all reappear and malkmus perverse as ever like the p in stephen plays LIONS(LINDEN) from pavement’s watery domestic ep. this is followed by SENATOR which is a rollicking rambling at times off kilter rock epic about politicians abusing their power on one level by getting blow jobs and on another level their corruption starting at the top and working down and affecting all levels of american society. then a minor disagreement breaks out between the jicks as they decide to play one more song without a song list to guide them. true to the spirit of punk. johanna puts forward US from piglib sighting that they have never played that in perth before. thank you johanna for that countrified classic. it was a beauty and completed the circle of a song from every jicks album. taking stock of the concert i realise i need to take sides again. is american or british english superior? well in the hands of stephen malkmus it is a no brainer. he makes american english live and breath and dance and sing and makes british english appear akin to something in a roman catacomb. oh hail the great guitar god and the psychotic wordsmith.