I'll tell you who is great right now - and by right now I pretty much mean since the early 1980s, but most certainly across the last half-decade - and that's J Mascis. I've been a fan of Dinosaur Jr since hearing Get Me as part of that wonderful compilation, The Trip. From there it was back to scoop up the earlier albums and I caught the band on the tour in support of Without A Sound - I loved their "swansong" album, Hand It Over. And then it was to J's albums with The Fog and to the side-projects. Then of course Dinosaur Jr came back - and the three albums the group has made since 2007 have all been pretty great. They might even be getting better...
In 2011 Mascis released his first full solo album and he's just followed that up with Tied To A Star. The album comes out Monday, you can click that link for my advance review. It's very much a sequel to Several Shades of Why - which was described to me, perfectly, as "Dinosaur Jr for old people". That's certainly me. I am most definitely old people.
I still love those first three Dino J albums - especially You're Living All Over Me. I have a fondness for Green Mind and Where You Been, I don't think there's been a bad album under the Dinosaur Jr name. But over the last few years Mascis has been very busy. And it's all been pretty great.
There's his walk-on cameo as part of Sweet Apple, and the Heavy Blanket album. Most recently there's been the live jam between Heavy Blanket and Earthless. That is something else! An hour-long slab of instrumental psychedelic-metal. It's huge and relentless. It was recorded a couple of years ago but released just this year. It's interesting having that alongside the brand new Mascis solo album. He's so instantly identifiable whether picking at an acoustic and letting that crumbling voice fall down around the tunes, or attacking the electric like some eternal teenager, locked in his room with only enough vices to motivate him to throttle his guitar.
So if you prefer the heavy and electric there's the Earthless/Blanket album - you can hear the whole thing here. But the new Mascis solo album has shades of his Dinosaur Jr sound, naturally. It's not totally acoustic, those little smudges of electric guitar - clipped, splattered solos - make themselves known.
I'm still pretty happy with that description I was given - of his music on his solo albums being Dinosaur Jr for old people. He's getting older. I'm getting older too. There's still the force of a landslide when he plays. And there are some pretty, rather gorgeous tunes - these soft, sweet melodies. It's all shrugged off, he seems so nonchalant.
I never got to see the reformed Dinosaur Jr - but I've seen Mascis play a couple of solo shows. He always plays plenty of the Dino songs as part of any solo set. I sure hope he makes it down here with the new album. I loved Several Shades of Why but Tied To A Star is better. The perfect palinode, a sequel, a sister-album but not in any way just the same thing again. There's enough in here sounding warm and new to keep fans interested. I reckon he's been consistently hitting it out of the park for the last half-decade. No complaints with anything he did before that - but since 2009 there's been a great run of albums. (And, er, shoes). Almost hard to keep up with actually. That seems to run antithetical to how J Mascis is perceived, perennial slacker. I love his unique, signature sound.
Here's my review of J Mascis' latest album, Tied To A Star.
Postcript: It's been a while since I've done any sort of competition. You might remember that a couple of weeks ago I gushed about the new album by Wellington duo, Into Orbit. I've since reviewed the album and I'm offering three lucky readers the chance to win a copy of the album on CD and a band t-shirt. Just click that link to be in win.
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