J Mascis – Several Shades Of Why

Taking an establishing artist out of his usual modus operandi can often times lead to a very interesting conclusion. J Mascis has spent the better part of his career standing in front of a wall of amplifiers and cranking out some of the most excessive six string strangulations in rock. This has lead to gigs of transcendence or sometimes-turgid meanderings. His new solo album Several Shades Of Why recasts him as an acoustic guitar troubadour and the end results are absolutely wonderful.

With a voice that can only be described and idiosyncratic and identifiable, Mister Mascis winds his pipes around acoustic guitar lines and minimal percussive syncopations. It’s a testament to his writing prowess that the songs feel so appropriate for this kind of stark backing. There are more instruments at play here than just acoustic guitar but they are delivered with such subtlety, they don’t really become readily apparent until a few listens.

There is also a longing in the compositions that focus more on the internal and less on the bold statement, this has the comforting effect of drawing the listener in even further. The album flows by seamlessly and it’s not until the fading elegant electric guitar lines of the last track What Happened that the spell gets broken.

After the underground guitar hero status of so much of his previous work, it’s gratifying to know that like all worthwhile artists we often only get to see the tip of the iceberg of talent. There is a lot more to J Mascis than just rawk and roll.

Rob Hudson

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