FIRST LISTEN: J Mascis – What Do We Do Now? (Sub Pop)

J MascisCan’t Believe We’re Here is an album rich with quirky vigour, and the album’s title track promptly gets things started. Featuring not one, but two different guitar solos, this opening track feels determined to try and provide the listener with both an intriguing and quirky tone, all whilst trying to retain many of the typical aspects of a generic rock song. As a package the track itself feels disjointed, almost as if it’s a jigsaw puzzle, with all of the pieces still yearning for a proper connection with one another. 

While it might certainly be as a result of my naivety towards Mascis’ work, it doesn’t feel unfair to say that each of the songs tends to follow an incredibly similar formula. This isn’t to say that the formula doesn’t work, both ‘What Do We Do Now‘ and ‘Right Behind You’ are both tracks that fall pleasantly on the ears, Mascis’ slightly off-centre vocals aside, but it’s only the slight alterations in drum beats that truly discern, one song from another. 

On the topic of the generic rock song, aspects I mentioned previously, ‘You Don’t Understand Me‘ is heartfelt, but not any different, and once again fails to shrug off its familiarity from the other tracks around it. Which almost hurts to say, because under the rubble of all of this familiarity is likely some meticulous craftsmanship, it’s just difficult to locate it exactly. 

‘Can’t Find You‘ is the first track that begins to set itself free from the previous songs, if only for the deep, looming piano that accompanies much of the usual medley of instruments found on this album (provided by Ken Mauri, of the B-52s). But it’s again a track that is burdened with a somewhat screechy guitar solo, one that feels out of place and ill-fitting. 


While my first impressions of the album have for the most part been inherently negative, this isn’t to say that the album doesn’t have its pleasant moments. ‘Old Friends‘ is an incredibly poignant track, and certainly one of my favourites. It’s carried with by this jovial beat and some chirpy fills that just help to elevate the track. Similarly, although I’ve often felt the lengthy and unnecessary guitar solos taint some of the tracks, ‘It’s True‘ does feature two guitar solos that I actually enjoyed somewhat, even if it does draw the song out into a length five minute-plus runtime. 

Mascis has a legendary stature, especially when taking into account his previous efforts, both solo and in any of his many bands most notably Dinosaur Jnr, but there’s this feeling about the album that I find hard to shift. It’s like buying something that’s been pre-distressed before it’s actually been used, it all feels so new, and yet it’s trying to be anything but. 

This album is pleasant for the most part, but it doesn’t shake foundations, and it most certainly doesn’t really get going at any point. It might be an album that’s due for a revisit when the June sun is high in the sky however… 

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