It wasn't until last years' Where You Been? that Dinosaur Jr. auteur J. Mascis lived up to his potential and produced an entire album's worth of consistently strong material. He'd always been a great singles artist: "Freak Scene" and "The Wagon" and his deconstruction/hommage of "Just Like Heaven" were all on target, but until last year, he filled his albums with a lot of unfleshed songs and tons of guitar wank. Now I like loud guitars as much as the next wanker, but my favorite guitar heroes--like, say, Neil Young or Bob Mould-- were always at their best when they used their solos to send a great song heavenward. You know, like, "Cinnamon Girl" or "Celebrated Summer" or "Freak Scene."
And heavenward seems to be where he's going. Cos J Mascis is on a roll. Without A Sound is an equally worthy follow-up, making it sound like Where You Been? was a re-birth, not a lucky shot. (Fans who want more proof might wanna dig up the Japanese import Quest, over 40 minutes of outtakes and live performances from last year-- I found it at the Tower Outlet store in San Francisco for $5.99.) If gone forever are the fury sludgefeasts of the earliest Dinosaur days, I'll certainly trade them for the lighter touch he's going for nowadays.
Which ain't that light, in any real sense of the word. I mean, for all of the acoustic guitars and mellotron, he can and does crank out the jams. Just not every minute of every song--so his music never gets lost in itself. If any thing the lighter touches focus your attention on the heavier aspects of his music.
And it certainly is basically his music. Augmented mostly with only a bassist, J is in essence the alt.music.alternative equivalent of the guy who used to be Prince. Except that Prince would never allow himself to speed up like Mascis does on "Feel The Pain," the album's lead-off track, first single and maybe even a reference to one of the several running national jokes about our President.
After that, its all really quite simple: Mascis has his shit down cold--spewing out a jangly riff here; a powerful solo there, and anchoring it all with his world-weary voice. If you're looking for any great meanings or revelations here, forget it. If there aren't any songs as perfect as "Get Me" or "What Else is New" here, (that I can tell yet), there ain't self-indulgent ramblings like which marred Green Thumb. Bottom line: if you're looking for killer rock and roll to compete with, say, the latest releases by Neil Young and Bob Mould, you got it.
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This document last modified 09 August, 1995.
I was listening to Foo Fighters -- Foo Fighters