Peter Walker 

Old music: Stephen Malkmus – Jenny and the Ess-Dog

Peter Walker: He mocks and caricatures, but there's real tenderness at the heart of Stephen Malkmus's slacker romance
  
  

It might be indie heresy to admit it but for all the perennial fuss made about Pavement I actually prefer the debut solo offering by the band's former frontman, Stephen Malkmus. The eponymous album's charms are summed up, for me, by this song, which manages to be, all at once, deliciously tuneful, utterly absurd and yet oddly touching.

In just under three minutes of jangling, descending chords, Malkmus takes us through the romance of a slackerish musician and a younger woman ("She's 18, he's 31/ She's a rich girl, he's the son /of a Coca-Cola middleman") before – I suppose I should say "spoiler alert" here – their inevitable break-up when she moves away to college.

The song somehow straddles a line between near-mockery – an early line runs "Kiss when they listen to Brothers in Arms/ And if there's something wrong with this/ They don't see the harm" – and genuine emotion. Anyone who doesn't feel something for the chastened Ess-Dog ("Sean, if you will"), who quits his covers band and starts waiting tables after the break-up has a heart of stone.

Even the music wants it both ways, with Malkus inserting an anomalous middle-eight section in which he repeatedly sings "Get me out of here!" in a strangled sub-British accent, for no apparent reason.

It remains one of my favourite love songs.