Release Date: May 24, 2005
Record label: Matador
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Considering the seemingly plainspoken title of his third solo album, plus the extracurricular knowledge that the former Pavement leader has settled down and is a first-time father, it would be easy to assume that Face the Truth is where Stephen Malkmus finally turns into a self-conscious adult, ironing out the kinks in his music, tempering his humor, and starts making classic rock records for Mojo readers. Frankly, such a leap backward toward respectability doesn't seem all that far-fetched in light of the meandering, monochromatic Pig Lib, which suggested that Malkmus was standing on the verge of becoming a modern-day Tony McPhee, churning out guitar jams to an ever more selective audience. Knee-jerk assumptions shouldn't always be trusted, however, since Face the Truth isn't plain or predictable at all: it's a vibrant return to form.
Anybody who's been singed by Stephen Malkmus's past escapades in Pavement and beyond knows that you must be on top of your game before venturing too close. It's a challenge even to climb over the outer railings of Malkmus's mental ballpark, as he out-Becks Beck in his quest for ever lower-fi Americana, growing even Mobier than Moby in his esoteric tinkerings. Face the Truth runs a whole sequence of gauntlets, from the eight-minute acid-blues-free-jazz safari of No More Shoes to the back-to-front disco-funk of Kindling For the Master, via the suspiciously "normal" rock'n'roll of Baby C'mon.
Face the Truth is Stephen Malkmus’ third album since Pavement’s break-up in 1999, and over the course of those three albums the direction of his solo career has become a little more apparent. Everybody assumed that Malkmus was the mastermind behind Pavement, and that the band’s skewed brand of ‘90s indie rock was his vision. That may or may not have been the case, but 2003’s Pig Lib and Face the Truth have both made it clear that Malkmus had musical interests that ranged much wider than “indie” rock.