J Mascis – Several Shades Of Why (Sub Pop, 2011)
Track to download: Is it done
J Mascis has always been known as more of an axe-wielder than an acoustic troubadour, his guitar chops more than making up for the lack of power in his vocals. So it comes as some surprise to see the Dinosaur Jr front man picking up the acoustic for his third “official” solo effort. I say “official” because Mascis pretty much kicked everyone else out of Dinosaur Jr in 1991. During that time, the “band” continued to produce loud tunes with reams of distortion, a world away from the folky songs found here.
This change might lead some to question whether Mascis has finally come to feel more comfortable in his own skin, perhaps finally leaving behind the angst that has always seemed to permeate his records. One look at the lyrics sheet proves otherwise: “Hope has left me here” he sings/mumbles on ‘Very Nervous and Love’. We also find him addressing his relationship with his mother, and elsewhere pleading for someone to “make things right”. Unplugged, but still the same Mascis then.
All of the work on this album is competent, but it’s telling that the best moments come on the occasions when he cracks out the electric guitar and throws out a solo. The record certainly has its moments, but leaves you yearning for the excellence of Dinosaur Jr’s collaborative efforts. A nice detour perhaps, but hopefully not an indicator of another acrimonious split in the Dinosaur camp.