Friday, 23 November 2012

J Mascis - Several Shades Of Why

Debut solo album from Dinosaur Jr. noisenik.

J. Mascis is that rarest of creatures, a prolific slacker. Best known for his sonic assaults in bands Deep Wound, J. Mascis & The Fog, Witch, the criminally overlooked Sweetapple, and of course Dinosaur Jr. The perennially long haired Mascis has finally got round to releasing his solo debut album.

Back in the late 80's before grunge went overground, indie guitar music was subject to hollow bodied guitar snobbery, I'm thinking of Orange Juice, The Smiths, Everything But The Girl et al. Until the likes of Teenage Fanclub and Dinosaur Jr broke through with their Jazzmasters and Jaguars and dragged indie out of the sixth form common rooms and back onto the streets. (OK, that may be slightly revisionist but you get my drift).

Click over the jump for more on Several Shades Of Why plus the video for Is It Done.
However, his solo debut is a decidedly stripped back acoustic affair. It's not until midway through track 5 until we get to hear one of his trademark searing yet melodic electric guitar solos. Gone is the thrum and rifferama associated with classic Dinosaur Jr. Instead we're presented with a surprising breadth and variety of low key styles and arrangements. From stoner country strumming, through dreamy soundscapes, to Bert Jansch style finger picking.

As hinted by the title, there's a questioning theme to most of the songs here, the singer is into his middle years but is still in search of answers to life's emotional problems. And of course there's always that voice. The guy is no Caruso but possesses a tone that like Dylan or Lydon is truthful and believable. He's not afraid of coming across as vulnerable and refreshingly wears his heart truly on his sleeve without being mawkish or falsely sentimental.

Highlights include “Can I” which sounds like a long lost Neil Young classic, the atmosphere and echo of “Very Nervous And Lost”, and the dexterous guitar picking and string backing of the title track. If you've liked his previous output this won't disappoint. It's also a strong enough album to win over some new converts.

Click here for J Mascis' website.