Quick Review (LP): Several Shades of Why by J. Mascis

J. Mascis
Several Shades of Why
Sub Pop; 2011

My Rating: B (66/100)

Best Tracks: "Listen to Me", "Several Shades of Why", "Is It Done"

For a guy with a frog-fart of a voice, J. Mascis sure writes pretty tunes, and doesn’t sound half-bad singing along with them. For his reputation as an indie rock grinder, he makes some really great chamber pop, which we’ve known since Where You Been? at least.

NOTES:

– I dig this record, but I did find myself wondering at one point whether some of these tracks were acoustic re-workings of previously released Dinosaur, Jr. tracks. Case in point: "Can I."
– The title track is a real standout. Very nice string accompaniment.
– OK, what is the deal with Mascis song-naming? I’m pretty sure that at least 90% of the songs he has written are titled purely with pronouns, common verbs, and prepositions. His greatest hits will undoubtedly be titled "Liked These."
– I really love laid-back, acoustic pop records like this. In my mind, it’s a sign of a truly great songwriter when they can effortlessly switch from full-form rock band mode to catchy, hyper-melodic folk pop.
– Mascis’ songs have always been more about the fabulous guitar arrangement than the voice or the lyrics, but his croak has the same hear-2-believe quality as Dylan’s.
– Some cool guests here: Kurt Vile (I’m name-dropping here), Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene), and Ben Bridwell (Band of Horses).
Pitchfork puts the record in perspective for me: “The specter of loneliness and aging is a through-line here, too, brilliantly visualized by artist Marq Spusta’s gorgeous cover, which shows a pair of fuzzy, unmistakably J-like creatures– one big, one tiny– using a sea monster’s back for an island. (Mascis had a son in 2007.) Though dour, Mascis’ sleeve avatar is also kind of cute. Several Shades of Why gives us that softer, gentler J Mascis. But it’s not kids’ stuff– these are lullabies for adults, offered up with a compassion that doesn’t come easy.

ATTRIBUTES:
Cohesion (4/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Consistency (4.5/5)
Concept (4/5)
Songs (4/5)

Dinosaur Jr.: Beyond (2007)

Dinosaur Jr.
Beyond; 2007
Fat Possum Records
My Rating: 82/100
Huzzah – another indie legend gets the band back together. By 2007, after reunions by Pixies, Slint, and every other 80’s/90’s act that could possibly swing it, a new Dinosaur Jr. record barely registered with me. And why would it? With a few exceptions, I never really dug the OLD Lou-era stuff, and only bona-fide classics like “Out There,” “Start Choppin’,” and “Get Me” made a dent with me in the mid-90’s. Well, this here record is proof-positive that hype CAN be a good thing, as I finally gave this one a shot round about early 2009 and was surprised to find one beefcake of a record. Seriously, upon investigating the band’s back catalog, I don’t think they ever made a record as consistent and cohesive as this. “Crumble” tugs the heartstrings like only the best hard rockers can, and late album beauties like “We’re Not Alone” and “I Got Lost” avoid Mascis’ tendancy to frontload the best tracks. Barlow’s contributions are good too, especially “Back To Your Heart”, a big, melodic, mid-tempo sludgefeast. (It’s kinda funny to think about the subtext there – “Back to your heart, J.” Awwwww….) Dinosaur Jr. have truly distinguished themselves by reuniting and delivering what fans really want – a second go at making records. And what a record! As far as indie reunions go, that means Dinosaur Jr. gets my award for best of the decade.
Cohesion (4.5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Consistency (4/5)
Tracks
1. Almost Ready (5/5)
2. Crumble (5/5)
3. Pick Me Up (4/5)
4. Back to Your Heart (5/5)
5. This is All I Came to Do (4/5)
6. Been There All the Time (4.5/5)
7. It’s Me (5/5)
8. We’re Not Alone (5/5)
9. I Got Lost (5/5)
10. Lightning Bulb (3.5/5)
11. What If I Knew (4/5)

DinosaurBeyondDinosaur Jr.
Beyond; 2007
Fat Possum Records

My Rating: 82/100

Huzzah – another indie legend gets the band back together. By 2007, after reunions by Pixies, Slint, and every other 80’s/90’s act that could possibly swing it, a new Dinosaur Jr. record barely registered with me. And why would it? With a few exceptions, I never really dug the OLD Lou-era stuff, and only bona-fide classics like “Out There,” “Start Choppin’,” and “Get Me” made a dent with me in the mid-90’s. Well, this here record is proof-positive that hype CAN be a good thing, as I finally gave this one a shot round about early 2009 and was surprised to find one beefcake of a record. Seriously, upon investigating the band’s back catalog, I don’t think they ever made a record as consistent and cohesive as this. “Crumble” tugs the heartstrings like only the best hard rockers can, and late album beauties like “We’re Not Alone” and “I Got Lost” avoid Mascis’ tendancy to frontload the best tracks. Barlow’s contributions are good too, especially “Back To Your Heart”, a big, melodic, mid-tempo sludgefeast. (It’s kinda funny to think about the subtext there – “Back to your heart, J.” Awwwww….) Dinosaur Jr. have truly distinguished themselves by reuniting and delivering what fans really want – a second go at making records. And what a record! As far as indie reunions go, that means Dinosaur Jr. gets my award for best of the decade.

Cohesion (4.5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Consistency (4/5)

Tracks:

1. Almost Ready (5/5)
2. Crumble (5/5)
3. Pick Me Up (4/5)
4. Back to Your Heart (5/5)
5. This is All I Came to Do (4/5)
6. Been There All the Time (4.5/5)
7. It’s Me (5/5)
8. We’re Not Alone (5/5)
9. I Got Lost (5/5)
10. Lightning Bulb (3.5/5)
11. What If I Knew (4/5)

Dinosaur Jr.: Farm (2009)

DINOSAUR, JR.
FARM; 2009
JAGJAGUWAR RECORDS
MY RATING: 81/100
I was never THAT into Dinosaur Jr. back in the day. I had good pals that worshipped J. Mascis and all, and I really dug a handful of the tracks on WHERE YOU BEEN, but to me the band seemed awfully one-dimensional, essentially an excuse for an alternative guitar hero to display his sickening guitar prowess. Isn’t that why we had cock rock? As a testament to the power of all-the-fuss, though, I dipped my toes into BEYOND a few months back, and found an exhilirating, fresh, tuneful rock record. Some people said it was all the chemistry of the original lineup getting it back together, but I’d assign the beast’s present winning streak to the wisdom and foresight of middle-age. After a while, the best artists finally figure out what it is they’re really good at. Some then rebel against it; some, however, embrace it. With FARM, the Dinosaur 3 have settled into the suits they wear so well and created one hell of a great rock and roll record AGAIN. I mean, I’ve heard the old stuff, and BUG is a pretty good record, true, but all twelve tracks herein are just so gorgeous and chunky and sludgy that it makes me want to learn to play guitar all over again. “Plans?” “Pieces?” NICE!!! Barlow contributes some fine stuff too, “Imagination Blind” being his best work since BAKESALE. All in all, this one is gloriously visceral, ebbing and flowing in all the right ways. Kudos for selecting a great cover, too.
TRACKS:
1. Pieces (5/5)
2. I Want You To Know (5/5)
3. Ocean in the Way (5/5)
4. Plans (5/5)
5. Your Weather (4/5)
6. Over It (3.5/5)
7. Friends (4.5/5)
8. Said the People (5/5)
9. There’s No Here (3.5/5)
10. See You (4/5)
11. I Don’t Wanna Go There (5/5)
12. Imagination Blind (5/5)

Dinosaur-Jr-FarmDINOSAUR, JR.
FARM; 2009
JAGJAGUWAR RECORDS

MY RATING: 81/100

I was never THAT into Dinosaur Jr. back in the day. I had good pals that worshipped J. Mascis and all, and I really dug a handful of the tracks on WHERE YOU BEEN, but to me the band seemed awfully one-dimensional, essentially an excuse for an alternative guitar hero to display his sickening guitar prowess. Isn’t that why we had cock rock? As a testament to the power of all-the-fuss, though, I dipped my toes into BEYOND a few months back, and found an exhilirating, fresh, tuneful rock record. Some people said it was all the chemistry of the original lineup getting it back together, but I’d assign the beast’s present winning streak to the wisdom and foresight of middle-age. After a while, the best artists finally figure out what it is they’re really good at. Some then rebel against it; some, however, embrace it. With FARM, the Prehistoric 3 have settled into the suits they wear so well and created one hell of a great rock and roll record AGAIN. I mean, I’ve heard the old stuff, and BUG is a pretty good record, true, but all twelve tracks herein are just so gorgeous and chunky and sludgy that it makes me want to learn to play guitar all over again. “Plans?” “Pieces?” NICE!!! Barlow contributes some fine stuff too, “Imagination Blind” being his best work since BAKESALE. FARM is gloriously visceral, ebbing and flowing in all the right ways. Kudos for selecting a great cover, too.

TRACKS:

1. Pieces (5/5)
2. I Want You To Know (5/5)
3. Ocean in the Way (5/5)
4. Plans (5/5)
5. Your Weather (4/5)
6. Over It (3.5/5)
7. Friends (4.5/5)
8. Said the People (5/5)
9. There’s No Here (3.5/5)
10. See You (4/5)
11. I Don’t Wanna Go There (5/5)
12. Imagination Blind (5/5)