Album Review: J Mascis - Tied To A Star

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For nearly thirty years J Mascis has been a quiet guitar hero, never crossing-over but never fading from the scene he helped create in the mid-80's.

Hailing from the stuffy university town of Amherst, Massachusetts, Mascis found hardcore punk and wailing guitar solos as a way out.

The sloth-like, bearded and bespectacled rocker is the unlikely face of "straight-edge", never really indulging in the sex and drugs comfort zone of alternative and punk rock.

His work with Dinosaur Jr on SST Records made it okay for a loud punk band to have genuine melody and emotion.

Once the grunge breakthrough happened a few years later, the major labels started playing catch-up and instantly signed the Dino's to a major label deal. In 1994, The Meat Puppets and Dinosaur Jr both had hit singles ("Backwater" and "Feel The Pain" respectively), which was ironic since the bands had been together for over a decade at this point.

The moment in the spotlight wouldn't last long and Mascis would carry the Dino's through all sorts of lineup and label changes, finally taking a long sabbatical at the turn of the millennium.

In 2007 the original trio of Mascis, bassist Lou Barlow (who had been keeping busy with Sebadoh and Folk Implosion) and drummer Murph re-united with the same volume and vigor they had in their glory days. The quest was not to somehow match their 1994 hit "Feel The Pain" but to match the same quality of their late 80's albums "You're Living All Over Me," "Bug," and "Green Mind." Fast forward to 2014 and J is on solo album number two for legendary Seattle grunge label Sub Pop.

For Sub Pop you would think that Mascis would want to up the distortion and feedback a few notches from the already loud sound of Dinosaur Jr, but you would be making assumptions. Never paint J Mascis into a corner.

For his new album "Tied To A Star" and his last effort "Several Shades Of Why" (from 2011), Mascis busts out his trusty Martin acoustic guitar and lays down ten tracks of subtle, laid back folk rock, not unlike The Grateful Dead or Neil Young. I wouldn't call it folk rock, but it does have a late night acoustic jam quality that is pretty far from the white-noise he has established with his day job. Chan Marshall aka Cat Power joins him for a steamy but forlorn duet "Wide Awake." "Every Morning" conjures summer-of-love bands like Buffalo Springfield and Jefferson Airplane.

He shows off his wildly-gifted finger picking on much of the album including closer "Better Plane." For those looking for a J Mascis distorted guitar solo, there are a couple thrown in for a good measure. The songwriting remains top notch, as do his creaking, sighing, one-of-a-kind vocals.

Tied To A Star is good enough where you will not be counting the days for him to rejoin Dinosaur Jr. I give Tied To A Star by J Mascis.

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