Anyone looking for a bold statement from Stephen Malkmus' solo debut was disappointed. Stephen Malkmus was a familiar record from the very beginning — had it been released as Pavement's sixth studio album, no one would have thought twice. The songs follow Malkmus' trademark loping gait, and the only discernable difference is a new taste for long guitar solos, something he'd been doing live for years.
Malkmus settles into the familiar on this record. No one's breaking new ground; Malkmus is happy to explore his long-held love for '70s classic rock. "The Hook" is a little bit Strokes (a revisionist comparison since the Strokes didn't exist yet), a lot Tom Petty, and "Discretion Grove" sounds exactly like solo Frank Black. The rest, of course, sounds like Pavement.
"Church on White" is a great song, its staircase riff a bit reminiscent of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." "Trojan Curfew" is a very lush ballad, Malkmus' voice packing more warmth (a recording technique thing) than we've ever heard before. And "Jenny & the Ess-Dog" is vintage, Brighten the Corners-era Pavement.
Were it a couple songs shorter, we'd probably look back on Stephen Malkmus as a notably strong solo debut. Still a good record, but not one you'll return to often.