Stephen Malkmus's solo career is marked by the smarts, eclecticism, and cheeky surprise that Pavement fans had grown to expect. FACE THE TRUTH, Malkmus's third solo effort, toes that line, yet it is his most diverse outing, with a mix-and-match style that references a range of influences, wrapping it all in his inimitably surreal sensibility. Though strum-heavy, guitar-based songs like "Freeze the Saints" and "Post-Paint Boy" recall the open-road Americana of Malkmus buddies Silver Jews, and "No More Shoes" lays down a bluesy groove with Pavement-esque guitar interludes, elsewhere the album reveals electronic and post-punk elements.
The angular, synth-heavy opener, "Pencil Rot," for example, is full of herky-jerky New Wave tunefulness, and is one of the disc's highlights. "I've Hardly Been" sounds like a cross between Depeche Mode and Captain Beefheart, while "Kindling for the Master" starts off with a discombobulated verse before dropping into a trance-like atmosphere flavored with spacey keyboards and effects. As always, Malkmus's lyrics are literate (he tosses off words like "elucidate" and "quagmire" with ease), witty, and enigmatic, and his voice quavers and breaks with more authority than ever. Although FACE THE TRUTH will sound familiar to longtime fans, it is full of fresh surprises.
Rolling Stone (No. 975, p.74) - 3.5 stars out of 5 - "[H]is weirdest yet....[Malkmus] wigs out with a bunch of left-field psychedelic-folk ditties... "
Spin (pp.104-105) - "[H]is structural influences fold into a signature sound as wholly individual as folk-rock guitar gods Richard Thompson and Johnny Marr." - Grade: B
Uncut (p.112) - 4 stars out of 5 - "His confidence and vigour suggest Malkmus is happier on the margins of alt.rock than in its spotlight."
Magnet (p.101) - "[A] return to his youthful inscrutability....Stylistically diverse, willfully weird and lyrically cryptic..."