J Mascis is a man of few words. His music does his talking for him. And for 70 totally absorbing minutes this evening, in a fully sold out Brudenell Social Club, it speaks volumes. The 16 songs he performs tonight provide a compelling narrative for a man whose career in music now spans four decades and who, for all that he is taciturn, has become an improbable spokesman for a generation.
J Mascis’s reputation rests largely on his work with Dinosaur Jr., a band for whom the word seminal was most surely created and who alongside Nirvana, Pixies and Sonic Youth rode in the glorious vanguard of the grunge apocalypse of the late ‘80s. Together these four groups radically overhauled the development of American rock music and it could be said that J Mascis was their pioneer.
In acknowledgement of Dinosaur Jr.’s considerable part in his life, Mascis selects seven shining jewels from their celebrated back pages, the first of which to appear tonight is ‘Little Fury Things’. Taken from his own favourite Dinosaur Jr. album, 1987’s You’re Living All Over Me, he strips the original of much of its initial annihilation whilst still retaining the song’s sensitive heart. And then just for good measure and as if to affirm that age has not withered him he drenches the melody in a glorious, nostalgic wave of fuzz guitar.
With Mascis’s fractured croon, ‘Get Me’ is reimagined as some country standard albeit one that contains the most blistering of distorted guitar solos. Also taken from Dinosaur Jr.’s 1993 album Where You Been, ‘Not The Same’ hears Mascis’s voice remain in the upper register throughout as he reinforces the song’s vulnerability.
As if to recognize the crossroads at which his career now stands, J Mascis weights the Dinosuar Jr. songs almost equally with his own solo material. He opens tonight’s set with ‘Listen To Me’. Drawn from his first solo record proper Several Shades Of Why, it welcomes comparisons with Neil Young and both men’s shared feelings of loneliness and yearning.
Last year’s Tied To A Star – another stepping stone in Mascis’s apparent shift further away from the ear-shredding nihilism of much of his earlier work with Dinosaur Jr. – is represented here by five songs, the undoubted highlight of which is ‘Heal The Star’. It emerges from the slipstream of the instrumental ‘Drifter’ with determination in its eyes, a cosmic country blues heart on its sleeve and a knowing nod towards Eastern mysticism in its extended coda.
As he moves into the next, apparently quieter phase of his illustrious career and for a man who has precious little to say, the songs of J Mascis still remain louder than words.
Some more photos from this show can be found here
- Listen To Me
- Me Again
- Little Fury Things
- Every Morning
- Get Me
- Heal The Star
- Not The Same
- Out There
- Fade Into You (Mazzy Star cover)
- Pond Song
- Not You Again
16.Just Like Heaven (The Cure cover)