If there's one word that I didn't ever think I'd use to describe a J Mascis album, it's beautiful. But, in essence, that's what his new solo outing, 'Tied To A Star', is. That may be a bitter pill to swallow for some Dinosaur Jr fans, but here Mascis shows that he's just as adept at crafting acoustic beauty, as he is bone-crunching noise. There's some consolation for those less inclined towards the quieter side of the spectrum, with occasional electric flourishes, but crucially this is an effective showcase for Mascis' talents as a songwriter and guitarist.
As you'd expect, there's plenty of catchy hooks to be found here, perhaps the most pleasant surprise though is Mascis' vocal. While still maintaining his angst-ridden lilt, he tackles some sections in a higher register than usual. Indeed, at times he sounds somewhat similar to Joseph Arthur by adopting a softer delivery. There's also a subtle sense of humour lurking beneath the heartfelt compositions. Maybe it's just me, but there's a certain irony that the duet with Cat Power, 'Wide Awake', sounds the most like a lullaby.
Lyrically, there's a certain amount of soul searching, 'Heal The Star' for example features the line "I could use a bit less doubt". However, it's certainly not an overwhelmingly depressing record, despite the subdued mood. The instrumental 'Drifter' demonstrates a carefree campfire sensibility, thanks in part to the percussion used. It's those elements that are gradually introduced behind the acoustic guitars that elevate the album beyond a navel-gazing exercise. Indeed, 'Come Down' utilises a distortion-laden guitar as backing throughout. But for the most part, the songs build to these added instrumental touches, which never feel distracting from what's come before.
Continue reading: J Mascis - Tied To A Star Album Review
The Flaming Lips and friends take a walk on the psych side
Rock oddballs The Flaming Lips have released more details about their upcoming charity album. It's a track-by-track tribute album to The Beatles' 1967 classic Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, regarded by many to be the most influential pop record ever released.
The Flaming Lips Credit George Salisbury
Entitled With A Little Help From My Fwends, the Lips bring their unique style to proceedings with assistance from a host of collaborators including members of MGMT, Moby, My Morning Jacket, Foxygen, Tegan & Sara, Phantogram, J Mascis (of Dinosaur Jr.) and Miley Cyrus.
Continue reading: The Flaming Lips And Fwends Rework Sgt. Pepper's
Dinosaur Jr. frontman J Mascis has revealed that Kurt Cobain asked him to join Nirvana, on more than one occasion. In an article with Spin magazine, Mascis reveals that the first time he was asked to join the legendary grunge band back in 1989. “Nirvana was playing Maxwell's and after the show I was talking to Kurt and [Sonic Youth's] Thurston Moore… Kurt said, 'you should join my band.'” He added that he thought Kurt was sick of the guitarist at the time, Jason Everman, though he recalls that he “didn’t think much about it.”
The second time that he was asked to join the band, was around the time of the release of ‘Sliver,’ when there was talk of him playing drums for the 1990 single, though he thinks that Mudhoney’s Dan Peters did the honors instead. It wasn’t just Nirvana that tried to poach J Mascis, either. Built To Spill’s Doug Martsch reportedly wanted the formidable guitarist in his own ensemble as well. He told Spin “When we signed to Warner Brothers [in 1995], I didn't have a band," Martsch says. "One idea I had was to play all the instruments myself and just get a drummer. I ended up doing that and scrapping it, but another idea was to have J play drums on the record. He was willing to do it, but then I kinda decided it wouldn't be a good idea.”
It seems as though Mascis’ evident confidence and experience may have been a little too much for Martsch to work with, as he explains “I felt like I needed to work with someone who I could really work with a little more, you know? I didn't know how we could work together, I had no idea and I didn't want to get started on something like that. I didn't want to be telling J Mascis what to play on drums. I wanted to find someone I felt comfortable really expressing myself with. But there was a moment where he was almost the drummer on that record.”
Whether fronting alternative rock legends and pioneers Dinosaur Jr. or branching out in his own solo work, J Mascis always seems to deliver something well worth a living. With this new solo album, Several Shades of Why, Mascis has pieced together a mellow and beautiful collection of acoustic songs. The album features notable collaborations with the likes of Kurt Vile adding guitar to a number of tracks and Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses offering himself up some vocals. Adding to the Alternative Rock who's-who feel, legendary grunge label Sub Pop are putting it out. It stands to reason that the weight of expectation for this album is quite high.
Continue reading: J Mascis, Several Shades of Why Album Review
'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)' arrives in April.
The two awards have made for a great 72nd birthday present for the country music icon.