FINALLY. AND THANK GOODNESS. It's about time someone gave Stephen Malkmus' post-Pavement career a huge kick in the ass. Granted, his self-titled solo debut from 2001 was nice. And 2003's Pig Lib was some damn hot shit. And yeah, he and the Jicks backed Radiohead that same year, which was rad. But, lately, it seems like Malky's been sleepwalking.

His most recent LP, 2005's Face the Truth, was sorta... boring. Self-indulgent. And when I saw him and the Jicks open up for Sleater-Kinney at the Crystal not too long ago, I just kept yawning, eventually walking out to suck in some air.

Now, fast forward through a short but long recent year. Both the Sleaters and Dead Moon call it quits. Suddenly that big Pacific Northwest sound that we all took for granted for so long is sounding a little fractured and lost. And who's been idling? Who's been biding his time? That's right, the Malk. And now he's got some backbeat.

When the news dropped in October of '06 that Janet Weiss had joined the Jicks, it wasn't exactly a what-the-fuck moment. Like coffee and milk, it made sense. But it was bad-ass, man! High hopes.

So, with Malkmus and the Jicks currently on their first US tour, it's time to check in. "It's going really, really well," Malkmus says, calling in from Tucson. "We've had, what, six shows? We're just trying to sort stuff out and work on new songs."

Based off the post-show reports filed by rabid fans on Malkmus' message board, and some tight cell video captures transferred to YouTube, all indications point toward a Malkmus/Jicks rebirth. Yeah, there's still some noodling. But there's also a lot of crazy Zeppelin/T.Rex/Gram Parsons/the Who cross-referencing that should have the kids at the Crystal salivating. Yet the ever-cool Malkmus is just taking it all in stride. His main concern? "We're all obsessed with our fantasy NBA teams," he says laughing. "Especially Janet. She can't go anywhere without checking the [transaction] wire. It's nuts."