J Mascis: Several Shades of Why
J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. fame has a new solo album, Several Shades of Why, coming out this month. The acclaimed indie-rock guitarist offers a nice change of pace with an acoustic album, featuring guest spots from Kurt Vile, Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene, and Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses.
Henry Rollins takes us through the years with J Mascis' and shares a few thoughts on Mascis, songwriting, and seven nights of Dinosaur Jr shows.
J Mascis is into his third decade as a well respected musician. He is the guitar player and most of the time vocalist of the band Dinosaur Jr., who at this point should need no introduction. The band has been around since the mid-eighties with their amp melting absolutely huge sound and J's distinct vocal style.
The band started picking up momentum by their second album, You're Living All Over Me, released in 1987 when college radio and other outlets picked up on the album track "Little Fury Things.". In 1988, the band released an album called Bug that featured a song called "Freak Scene." This song was inescapable in venues and college radio. It was this album that lead many people back to the previous one and then back to their first, self-titled debut from 1985.
It is perhaps a side note but no less worthwhile to mention that these last two Dinosaur Jr. releases were on the SST label, run by Greg Ginn of Black Flag fame. SST's Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth releases were the peak of the label's integrity and influence in the independent music world. Thankfully, both of these great bands were able to remove their titles from SST and get them to more honest labels. Not all SST bands were that lucky but that's another story.
After Bug, Dinosaur Jr. signed to Sire and over the next several years, released one great album after another, starting with Green Mind and ending with Hand It Over.
Now and then, in the middle of all these great releases, J Mascis started releasing solo material. One of his projects, J Mascis and The Fog, released two albums, More Light and Free So Free. These albums contain some of J's best songs. Absolutely great work.
And now, after two excellent recent Dinosaur Jr. albums, Beyond and Farm, and two very successful and exhaustive world tours to support them, J has just finished another solo album, Several Shades of Why. When so many others with multiple releases behind them have resorted to merely stringing riffs together, making records that are a chore to get through, J is still doing the hard work of writing real songs. Several Shades of Why is a beautiful piece of work. J remains emotionally brave enough to put down lyrics that lay it all out there and musically he's still getting down the road, not sitting still.
I have been a fan of Dinosaur Jr. and J since 1986 or so. I have seen the band and the man play as often as possible. Later this year, I will be going to a week's worth of Dinosaur Jr. shows where the band will be playing their Bug album in its entirety. I can't wait. I am very happy about the new J record. I have listened to it a few times now and am astonished at how he keeps finding it. Songwriters like J are at this point, exceedingly rare.
-- Henry Rollins, KCRW Music Host
1. Listen To Me
2. Several Shades of Why
3. Not Enough
4. Very Nervous and Love
5. Is It Done
6. Make It Right
7. Where Are You
8. Too Deep
9. Can I
10. What Happened