NEWS: J Mascis Announces New Solo LP ‘Elastic Days’

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J Mascis will release his new solo LP Elastic Days via Sub Pop Records on November 9th. Here’s the first single from the album, ‘See You At The Movies’.

Preorder the album HERE

About Elastic Days:
Near the end of Reagan’s first term, the Western Massachusetts Hardcore scene coughed up an insanely shaped chunk called Dinosaur. Comprised of WMHC vets, the trio was a miasmic tornado of guitar noise, bad attitude and near-subliminal pop-based-shape-shifting. The contours of their sound ebbed and flowed and mutated for 13 years before the name was retired. And in the course of that time, Dinosaur (amended to Dinosaur Jr. for legal reasons)
defined a very specific, very aggressive set of oblique song-based responses to what was going on. Their one constant was the scalp-fryingly loud guitar and deeply buried vocals of J Mascis.

A couple of years before they ended their reign, J cut a solo album called Martin + Me. Recorded live and acoustic, the record allowed the bones of J’s songs to be totally visible for the first time. Fans were surprised to hear how melodically elegant these compositions were, even if J still seemed interested in swallowing some of the words that most folks would have sung. Since then, through the reformation of the original Dinosaur Jr lineup in 2005, J has recorded solo albums now and then, when he had songs that were suited to acoustic (or at least relatively toned-down) performance. And those albums, Sings + Chant for AMMA (2005), Several Shades of Why (2011) and Tied to a Star (2014) all delivered incredible sets of songs presented with a minimum of bombast and a surfeit of cool.

Like its predecessors, Elastic Days was recorded at J’s own Bisquiteen studio. Mascis does almost all his own stunts, although Ken Miauri (who also appeared on Tied to a Star) plays keyboards and there are a few guest vocal spots. These include old mates Pall Jenkins (Black Heart Procession), and Mark Mulcahy (Miracle Legion, etc.), as well as the newly-added voice of Zoë Randell (Luluc), among others. But the show is mostly J’s and J’s alone.

He laughs when I tell him I’m surprised by how melodic his vocals seem to have gotten. Asked if that was intentional, he says, “No. I took some singing lessons and do vocal warm-ups now, but that was mostly just to keep from blowing out my vocal cords when Dino started touring again. The biggest difference with this record might have to do with the drums. I’d just got a new drum set I was really excited about. I don’t have too many drum outlets at the moment, so I played a lot more drums than I’d originally planned. I just kept playing. [laughs] I’d play the acoustic guitar parts then head right to the drums.”

There is plenty of drumming on the dozen songs on Elastic Days. But for those expecting the hallucinatory overload of Dinosaur Jr’s live attack, the gentleness of the approach here will draw easy comparisons to Neil Young’s binary approach to working solo versus working with Crazy Horse. This is a lazy man’s shorthand, but it still rings true.

J’s vocals have always leaned in a direction acknowledging the Bard of Toronto, but as early as Dinosaur Jr’s third single, the epoch-defining “Freak Scene,” J’s off-hand vocal delivery was instantly recognizable. On a track like “Sky Is All We Had,” the same dynamism is at work, but the evolution of technique is so massive as to lift the proceedings to a new level. The album is chock-full of similar nuggets. Built around acoustic guitar figures, often holding off electric flights of guitar backdrop until the third act, the tunes are massively seductive and satisfying. J’s fave track is “See You At The Movies,” which has a fully evolved sense of loss hanging over it, and features the classic couplet, “I don’t peak too early/I don’t peak at all.”  My own choice is “Picking Out the Seeds,” on which J pulls out his falsetto voice to great effect, and maintains a middlin’ pace that makes the tune one of the great Beard Rock readymades of the era.

But Elastic Days brims with great moments: Epic hooks that snare you in surprisingly subtle ways, guitar textures that slide against each other like old lovers, and structures that range from a neo-power-ballad (“Web So Dense”) to jazzily-canted West Coasty post-psych (“Give It Off”) to a track that subliminally recalls the keyboard approach of Scott Thurston-era Stooges (“Drop Me”). The album plays out with a combination of holism and variety that is certain to set many brains ablaze.

J says he’ll be taking this album on the road later in the year. He’ll be playing by himself, but unlike other solo tours he says he’ll be standing up this time. “I used to just sit down and build a little fort around myself — amps, music stands, drinks stands, all that stuff. But I just realized it sounds better if the amps are higher up because I’m so used to playing with stacks. So I’ll stand this time.”

I ask if it’s not pretty weird to stand alone on a big stage. “Yeah,” he says. “But it’s weird sitting down too.” Ha. Good point. One needs to be elastic. In all things.

–Byron Coley

LIVE REVIEW: Dinosaur Jr

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Dinosaur Jr, Luluc @ Metro Theatre, Sydney 12.01.17

There had been some worrying moments leading up to the start of  Dinosaur Jr’s Australian tour, with news that visa issues for Lou Barlow had meant a delayed flight. It all got sorted but there was more drama to come.

img_8246Luluc had opening honours, as they have for a number of J Mascis solo shows in the USA. Minor technical issues dotted their set but didn’t detract from the duo’s near telepathic interplay. Some may have pegged them as a folky pair but they imbued their songs with just the right amount of grit, drone and frayed guitar sounds to take them closer to a band like Low. In front of a crowd eagerly awaiting the sonic might of Dinosaur Jr, they proved to be an entrancing support act.

As mentioned above, it was a relief to see the shaggy-haired Barlow saunter on-stage but worryingly Dinosaur Jr’s drummer Murph was nowhere to be seen, replaced by Kyle Spence of American band Harvey Milk and the onetime stickman for J Mascis’ The Fog. J Mascis ambled to the mic and mumbled “Your government wouldn’t let Murph into the country so we brought Kyle” *. The mood in the room shifted to unease but as soon as they launched into their first song it was clear the guy had the chops to nail the songs. From there it was down to business with a mix of the old and the new with last year’s Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not album providing particular highlights in Goin Down and the monstrous Sabbath riffage of I Walk For Miles; showcasing the band’s ability to harness speed, melody and heaviness. Classic cuts peppered the set with The Wagon, Feel The Pain, Freak Scene and Start Choppin’ drawing the biggest crowd response with flailing limbs and nostalgic grins plastered across middle-aged faces. On opposite sides of the stage, Mascis and Barlow were split personalities in their physicality. Mascis the zen-like figure in the eye of a hurricane, extracting paint-pealing solos and buzzsaw chords while Barlow threshed about, a whirling dervish in perpetual motion in total harmony with the dense thrum of his bass. Drummer aside, this was exactly what we’ve come to expect from Dinosaur Jr and their unique brand of self-described “ear-bleeding country”.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: Dinosaur Jr – Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not

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When people drop the needle on the record, insert the CD or click play on their phone and hear the distinctive roar of dense and distorted guitar on the new Dinosaur Jr album a great number of them will think “this sounds like just another Dinosaur Jr album”. That was my gut reaction on first listen. All the components are there. The symbiotic fusion of The Stooges and Crazy Horse, Mascis’ spiralling classic rock guitar solos, the solid and dependant Murph locking it all together on drums, the thrum and pound of Lou Barlow’s low-slung bass and the usual 80/20 songwriting split between Mascis and Barlow.

Hit play again, return the stylus to the first groove and let the songs sink in for this is one of the strongest batch of songs the trio have collected since the trio shuffled back into the public eye in 2005. The speed of the songs and the brittle, heady rush of heavy, heavy melodic guitar rock is right in the pocket. It’s economical and sprawling at the same time. It feels grounded and earthy while launching in the stratosphere on the back of Mascis’ howling, fuzz-laden Fender Jaguar.

There isn’t a great depth to explore in the lyrical content of the songs, they still read like relationship snapshots, polaroids of an argument, a misunderstanding, a yearning. “I want to know, I want to go, I’m all alone” sings Mascis on ‘Tiny’, a typical loose treatise on love lost or temporarily misplaced.

The centrepiece of the album is ‘I Walk For Miles’ with its monolithic slabs of doom-laden riffage. It’s like a lumbering and melancholic lost Black Sabbath song that just keeps growing and growing to epic proportions over five minutes before it climaxes and then cleverly kicks off again like a regenerated monster from a b-grade movie. The album isn’t all gonzo rock moves though. ‘Knocked Around’ is a sweet document of the damage and aftermath of a bruising emotional relationship while Be A Part feels like a warm sonic hug, wistful and nostalgic.

Barlow’s contributions are as important and strong as ever with ‘Love Is’ sounding like R.E.M jamming with The Byrds while album closer ‘Left Right’ is as brilliant as anything else before it as Barlow mixes Cure-like grandeur with a super-hooky staggered rhythm and a beautiful vocal performance.

Yes it’s exactly what you’d expect, and most importantly, want from another Dinosaur Jr album in 2016. It’s a band still on a winning streak, still exploring the seemingly endless creative possibilities within their minimal musical framework, without a hint of boredom or simply trading on past glories.

Chris Familton

 

NEWS: J MASCIS ANNOUNCES AUSTRALIA & NZ TOUR

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Dinosaur Jr’s J Mascis has announced a full run of dates across Australia and New Zealand next February on the back of his album Tied To A Star. Read our review HERE

Tour Dates

  • Melbourne @ Melbourne Recital Centre, Friday 13 February 2015 – Tickets $44.00 + bf Special Guest Adalita www.melbournerecital.com.au,
  • Adelaide @ Garden Of Unearthly Delights, Adelaide Fringe, Saturday 14 February 2015 – Tickets $49.90 www.adelaidefringe.com.au
  • Hobart @ Republic Bar, Sunday 15 February 2015 – Tickets: $35.00 + bf moshtix.com.au
  • Canberra @ Street Theatre, Wednesday 18 February 2015 – Tickets $49.00 Special Guest Peter Black (Hard-Ons) thestreet.org.au
  • Brisbane @ The Zoo, Thursday 19 February 2015 – Tickets: $44.00 + bf Special Guest Adalita zoo.oztix.com.au
  • Gold Coast @ The Soundlounge, Friday 20 February 2015 – Tickets $38.00 + bf Special Guest Adalita soundlounge.com.au
  • Sydney @ The Factory, Saturday 21 February 2015 – Tickets: $45.70 + bf Special Guest Adalita  factorytheatre.com.au
  • Perth @ PIAF, The Festival Gardens, Monday 23 February 2015 – Special Guest to Mogwai www.perthfestival.com.au
  • Perth @ PIAF, The Festival Gardens, Tuesday 24 February 2015 – Special Guest to Mogwai www.perthfestival.com.au
  • Christchurch @ Dux Live, Thursday 26 February 2015 – Tickets $59.50 + bf  ticketek.co.nz
  • Wellington @ Bodega, Friday 27 February 2015 – Tickets $59.50 + bf  ticketek.co.nz
  • Auckland @ The Studio, Saturday 28 February 2015 – Tickets: $59.50 + bf  ticketmaster.co.nz

ALBUM REVIEW: J Mascis – Tied To A Star

Rating8JMascis-TiedToAStar_900-608x608If you exclude his solo live album and those with The Fog it took until 2011 for Dinosaur Jr’s J Mascis to release his debut solo album (Several Shades of Why) so it’s a pleasant surprise that the followup is already upon us. He follows a similar template with Tied to a Star, eschewing drums for the most part and using a more organic sonic palette that includes strings and piano as well as his dynamic and emotive guitar playing.

Tied to a Star is by no means a mellow acoustic affair. First single ‘Every Morning’ fairly bristles with a lively energy and is the closest to what the listener might expect from the frontman of Dinosaur Jr with a spiralling solo and Mascis’ seemingly endless ability to dress his songs in effortless vocal melodies. Tension and release are strong features of the album with the beaten strings and frantic Indian raga vibe of ‘Heal the Star’ contrasting with the Chan Marshall (Cat Power) assisted ‘Wide Awake’. Built on fast and free-flowing fingerpicking with blissed-out, half-asleep vocals it creates a pillowy, dreamy listening experience. The same energy and acoustic playing deployed in ‘Heal the Star’ also populates ‘Drifter’, a song that doffs its cap to the likes of John Fahey and contemporary guitarists like Ben Chasny (Six Organs of Admittance) and Jack Rose.

There is a real sense of balance at play across these ten songs. Mascis has found a place of comfort and creativity where he can reach out and pull down those fuzzed out Crazy Horse meets hardcore riffs, classic soaring electric solos, lazy back-porch strumming or his more recent penchant for droning, intertwining acoustic fingerpicking. Behind the musicality remains his innate sense of melody and song craft which is as strong as ever. Outside of Dinosaur Jr this is Mascis’ finest work to date.

Chris Familton

this review was first published on Under The Radar

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Dinosaur Jr. | I Bet On Sky

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by Chris Familton

square-600-15Star Rating DS 4Of the recent spate of reunions, Dinosaur Jr’s was one of the most unlikely, but over three albums it’s proven to be one of the most successful. From the cyclical soloing and piano on opener Don’t Pretend You Didn’t Know to the sleepy sway of Stick A Toe In and the rapid-fire riffs of Pierce The Morning Rain, the quota of simple ideas executed with energy and creativity is ridiculously high, making the album a thrilling listen from top to bottom.

I Bet On Sky continues the trend of featuring the songs of J Mascis with a couple of Lou Barlow gems added to the mix. Barlow as usual brings a thrashy pop briskness to his songs, in particular Recognition with its serrated, choppy rhythms. There are also signs of the trio stretching out with the funk rock of I Know It Oh So Well, which sounds much better than it does on paper. Dinosaur Jr. have survived by eschewing grand evolution in favour of subtly expanding their template. The results, once again, are glorious.

this review was first published on FasterLouder

NEWS: Dinosaur jr. Announce New Album Details

J Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph have announced that a new Dinosaur jr. album called I Bet On Sky will be released on September 18th in the USA via Jagjaguwar, and September 17th in the UK and Europe via PIAS.

Tracklisting

1 Don’t Pretend You Didn’t Know
2 Watch the Corners
3 Almost Fare
4 Stick a Toe In
5 Rude
6 I Know It Oh So Well
7 Pierce the Morning Rain
8 What Was That
9 Recognition
10 See It on Your Side

INTERVIEW: J Mascis

written by Chris Familton

J Mascis’ recent solo album Several Shades of Why isn’t his first release under his own name, that honour goes to Martin + Me (1996) – a collection of acoustic Dinosaur Jr songs and covers recorded on tour. In that sense the new album is probably considered Mascis’ first true solo record as it was recorded in a studio with original songs of a consistent style and feel. Ahead of another return visit to Australia to play Falls and Sydney festival dates the enigma that is J. Mascis brought us up to date with what he has been doing of late.

Stepping out from the shadow of one’s band can be a blessing in that there is a ready-made audience waiting to hear what you’ve done on your own. The flip-side is that there are as many waiting to criticize any deviation from the sound and style of the band you’ve made your name with. Mascis is brief and to the point (as he always is) when asked if he was nervous about releasing  this album under his own name. “Yeah sure, you don’t know how it is going to be received or how it will sell.” That fear of how the audience will react to a solo album is somewhat negated by the fact that Mascis avoids reading any of the press for all of the music he releases. “Not really I can’t deal with that. Sometimes the record company sends me review but I can’t read them, they make me crazy whether they’re good or bad.”

The desire to release a solo record in an acoustic form came from the simple desire to make a record that didn’t feature his trademark distortion and spiraling guitar solos. That decision led Mascis to sit down and write most of the songs specifically for the album with a specific set of style parameters in mind. “Stephen Stills and Incredible String Band, Pentangle. I had them in mind when I was writing the record,” he recalls. He then farmed his songs out to a selection of musicians like Band of Horses’ Ben Bridwell and Kurt Vile to ascertain who might work best as guests on Several Shades of Why. “I just asked them if they wanted to play. I gave a lot of people a lot of songs to see what they came up with and I used the bits I liked.”

Touring the album has meant stepping out of the safety zone of Dinosaur Jr and the wall of volume and electricity that defines that band’s live shows. In typical Mascis style it isn’t something he particularly relishes. “Its a bit nerve-wracking, I just power through and try and get through the show. It’s all about survival up there and a sense of relief when I get off the stage.” To flesh out his sets he throws in a couple of Dinosaur Jr tracks as well as a cover of Edie Brickell’s Circle which has been in his sights since first hearing it when touring the Bug album. “We played it on the Bug tour, I guess Murph had the album when it came out and Maggie from Sub Pop was selling t-shirts for us and she suggested I play that song. I used to listen to it in the van and stuff.”

There are other curious projects and events happening in Mascis’ universe at the moment with the Bug album currently being toured in America, complete with Henry Rollins doing a Q+A with Mascis onstage, the release of Dinosaur Jr’s first three albums as a cassette box-set as well as the production of a replica of Mascis’ unique Big Muff guitar pedal called the Fuzz Munchkin made by Queensland’s Tym Guitars. Most bizarrely is a Weezer tour on a cruise liner in January alongside Ween, Sebadoh, The Antlers and Yuck. “I’m scared about that. I’m bring a lot of friends to try and buffer myself so hopefully I have a good time.” frets Mascis.

this interview was first published on FasterLouder