Solid Sixth Solo Album From Dinosaur JR Front Man
A slightly mixed bag from Mascis, which includes an excellent collaboration with Cat Power as the album's standout track
J Mascis - Tied to a Star -
First things first, this correspondent is obliged to declare an interest: being a huge Dinosaur Jr fan and a pretty big J Mascis fan in general. It is, then, with some sadness that we must report that while J's newest solo effort (and J's sixth - if you discount his many other bands and collaborations) contains some enjoyable gems, the general impression is rather that this is an album of Dinosaur Jr B-sides.
But - it's horses for courses in this game of course - and fans of J's solo work will surely find much to delight them.
"Tied to a Star" - like much of J's solo back-catalogue - burns with the characteristic introspective intensity that is often quite different than the recently-reformed Dinosaur Jr's heavier output (including the resolutely bombastic live show that this correspondent was delighted to see in Dorset some six months ago).
Opening with the soft "Me Again" and its repeating and plaintive "sentimental me..." refrain, it is not until song two, "Every Morning", that we are treated to some of the classic overdriven Mascis soloing that this correspondent thrives on. "Heal the Star" marks the first diversion from J of old, with the addition of nicely bouncing sitars in the song's outro.
But it is the simple and lonesome "Wide Awake" that stands out as this album's excellent centerpiece - and which includes lovely breathy backing vocals from Cat Power in the second two thirds of the song - with Cat becoming gradually more prominent as the song builds and resolves. Fantastic stuff (check it out at the link below).
"And Then" is a simply folksy little song which perhaps errs a little too close to - whisper it - twee, whereas "Drifter" provides a more gutsy and bouncy (but repetitive) alt-country interlude. A slightly awkward segue takes us into the sweetly plaintive "Trailing Off" (refrain: "How much can I take? How much can I take..?") which builds satisfyingly into something more reminiscent of Dinosaur Jr. No bad thing, in this correspondent's humble view, and it is a great song.
All in all, a solid solo effort - but one which may leave stalwart Dinosaur fans eager for a follow up to 2012's "I Bet on Sky".
The album was recorded and produced by Mascis, mixed by John Agnello at Bisquiteen in Amherst, MA, and features guest appearances from musicians Ken Maiuri (Young@Heart Chorus), Pall Jenkins (Black Heart Procession), Mark Mulcahy (Miracle Legion) and - as mentioned above - Chan Marshall (Cat Power).Release: 25 August 2014 via Sub Pop https://soundcloud.com/subpop/j-mascis-wide-awake https://www.subpop.com/releases/j_mascis/tied_to_a_star
Written by Chris Mann
Really want to love J's solo stuff more but it just never really seems to match up to Dinosaur Jr., and I can't overlook it!