Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, Koko, London

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The Independent Culture

The last time that Stephen Malkmus was on stage in London it was the week of David Cameron's entrance to 10 Downing Street and the Californian was leading his old band, Pavement, into a fourth night at the huge Brixton Academy.

Tonight's proceedings may be less grand, but that doesn't change the fact that one of rock's wittiest and most engaging lyricists and frontmen is five albums (the Jicks have played on all of them) into a solo career that continues to produce work almost as strong as Pavement's back catalogue.

And so with 2010's much longed-for reunion out of the way, Malkmus can go back to his day job of writing and playing new material.

The evening is dominated by tracks from his latest record, Mirror Traffic, an album that, though a bit baggy at 15 tracks, has more than enough of the qualities that attract people to Malkmus's canon – slightly off-kilter melodies, witty lyrics ("I caught you streaking in your Birkenstocks," he sings on "Tigers") and an always charming insouciance.

That said, the band's entrance on to the stage is as quick as I've seen at a gig. About three seconds after the house lights drop, Malkmus is strapped up with a Gibson SG and eager to start.

The Jicks have a much tighter sound than Pavement's (often exaggerated) slacker approach, with Malkmus's Paul Stanley-like riffing adding elements of raw power to both older tracks like "Baby C'mon", from 2005's Face the Truth, and to the melodic guitar lines that drive newer material like "Stick Figures in Love".

Of course, an element of cynicism is still very much a part of Malkmus's demeanour (his rolled-up-shirt look suggests mysteriously cool IT guy). That cynicism is in the Jicks' songs, too: the chorus of "Senator" reads "I know what the senator wants, what the senator wants is a blow-job". It's in the between-song banter as well; remarking on the backstage pictures of the "legends" that have graced the former Camden Palace, Malkmus suggests a one-second silence for Carl Barât's career in lieu of a Remembrance Day stoppage. Poor Carl...

All in all, very likeable. The set could have done with some more earlier works (a few more tracks from 2008's wonderful Real Emotional Trash, for example, although the singer does apologise for playing so much new stuff) and the charm of the newer material is sometimes lost among the elongated jams; but it's further proof that the day-job wasn't worth giving up for good.