He shouuuullld look familiar to you. J Mascis has been making music since the year and the day I was born (1984). He’s the drummer turned monlithic guitar Neal-Young soul-like front man for Dinosaur Jr. yespleaseandthankyouyes. He might be more famous for his hair than his music, it’s a close tie. But his new solo record tips the scales towards an American Musical Treasure. His hair will go to science. So for the first time in 25 years, he’s released a solo record. That. Is. Nuts. Usually front men try the loner way on day 3 and then crawl back to his baby blanket band buds on day 6. Women are much stronger and would never do such a thing. Several Shades Of Why (Subpop) is a wonderful and a timeless collection of (mostly) acoustic confessions. It takes a weathered sense of self for a rocker to be comfortable behind only a slight shade of noise. Mascis brings life’s brighter things, including string accompaniment/guest vocals/love, into his record and it S-H-I-N-E-S. His voice has just the right amount of world weary weight sunk into it, but there’s a huge sense of acceptance and patience in every word. I think I’ve just met my life coach.
The title track “Several Shades of Why” features vocal contributions from the lovely Sophie Trudeau and violin weaving through the background. It is wonderful in a family-memory-kind-of-way: fond and doted upon. “Not Enough” could be the highest hint of Pop on the record; the quick pacing and proud chorus make it a wrapped and ready gift to hand to just about anyone.
J Mascis – Not Enough by subpop
Anyone missing the electric guitar licks Mascis is famous for will find it only on “It Is Done”. Halfway through it turns into a solitary jam, with the white-haired man fretting in front of a giant window and big ol’ sunbeams. But my favorite song on the record HAS to be “Make It Right”. To quote a commenter; “pillows of wind” sweep and curl under your ears. Puff the Magic Dragon has returned to the call of it. And he’s gonna stay as long as you want him to this time. Adventures!
It goes sweetly on. The 10 tracks go by quickly; “Where Are You” is a lazy buddy jam in the car. “Can I” turns down a darker road, one with an uncertain destination. It’s the longest track at 5:25, and it gets a might bit worrisome, but all becomes well when the sign for “What Happened” appears. Mascis narrows his eyes, tightens his grip and conquers through the torrents lesser men would falter in. And as he drives away, you watch him go on, thinking: “That dude’s gonna be just fine. And this world’s gonna be ok.”
The video for “Not Enough” was illustrated by label-mate Chad VanGaalen, another great musician.
(Several Shades of Why is available now from Sub Pop)