Wednesday, February 6th, 2019

Stephen Malkmus – Viktor Borgia

The 2019 music press, in which a new Stephen Malkmus song is introduced as such: “Stephen Malkmus summons an Ariana Grande android in his ‘Viktor Borgia’ video”…


Vikram Joseph: On listening to Stephen Malkmus’s attempt to go electro, you wonder if he’s listened to any electronic music released in the last 30 years. This half-baked dirge sounds like it’s been produced on the sort of software we used to use at school for GCSE Music compositions, perhaps by an actual 14-year-old. Malkmus’s voice is gutted of its usual off-key knockabout charm, which tips his lyrics from quirky to embarrassingly banal. It’s actually hard to imagine how this could have been much worse.

Iris Xie: So awkward, like I had to attend a really devastating David Bowie impersonator show. A weak non-vocal delivery, a goofy but not quite smart or referential enough synth in the back, and a frail hint at drama with some kind of epic tale. If I had to escape the destruction of Earth on a spaceship and I was trapped with the human equivalent of this song, I can’t say my fate would be much better off.

Claire Biddles: Stephen Malkmus is so good at matching his pathos-laden lyricism with sad, pathetic, sinister music that I’m surprised it’s taken him this long to release a tragic disco record. I don’t know if this is “good,” but I love Pavement and I love miserable electronic music, so I’m here for it.

Thomas Inskeep: Why is this so SLOW? Hurry up and get it done already. Sure, hearing Malkmus backed by synths is a novelty — but nothing more.

Alfred Soto: When Paul Westerberg — excuse me, Stephen Malkmus — coats his curdled nyuk-nyuks over presets he discovered last Tuesday, the world — well, what does the world do?

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Go back to those gold soundz.

Ian Mathers: Back in the late ’90s/early ’00s there was a really good British indie band named Hefner. They were kind of rock-ish, kind of folk-ish — their “biggest” moment was a very… distinctive video for “I Took Her Love for Granted.” Their last album, Dead Media, came out in 2001, and in what seemed like a pretty sudden turn at the time, it revealed that they’d been getting into analogue synths — not a flavour previously discernible much in their songs. The gap between Dead Media and their previous album didn’t include a bunch of solo records I never got into, and maybe that explains the difference, but all of this is to say, I have proof that I don’t automatically hate it when bands that meant a lot to my adolescence (or the singers thereof) abruptly switch to the bleeps and the bloops. In fact, I suspect I’d like this one more just as an instrumental.

Katherine St Asaph: There are plenty of reasons I want to like this — fealty; the futzed-with motorik beat; the vocals for once that are actually vocals; the Earthbound pings and squeaks in the background; the propensity to hate this of basically everyone, from indie lifers who’d rather consume arsenic than electronics to people who actually like clubs, whose reaction to hearing “we walk into the club, thank the heavens above there’s a place we can go” on this makes me flinch imagining it; the unexpected goodwill I’d extend if I heard this from some legacy-less SoundCloud guy making ersatz Gary Numan Amiga music. But this is as high as I can go.

Tim de Reuse: As a self-aware, cheesy passion project from the frontman of a band that did great things in a completely different genre a quarter-century ago? Yeah, it’s all right, I guess. What if I were to instead consider this as just a fun little ditty that (presumably) some Brooklynite millennial banged out on a borrowed Moog as a exercise in 80’s post-post-post-ironic synth nostalgia? Yeah, it’s still all right, I guess.

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One Response to “Stephen Malkmus – Viktor Borgia”

  1. Big ups to Hefner!

    Still afraid to hear this tho.