J Mascis: What Do We Do Now (Sub Pop) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Saturday, May 18th, 2024  

J Mascis

What Do We Do Now

Sub Pop

Mar 06, 2024 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

J Mascis’ fifth solo record is almost exactly what you’d expect and precisely what you’d hope for. If by this stage of the game, after 40 years as Dinosaur Jr.’s bandleader, we don’t know what we’re getting from the cool uncle of grunge, we’ve done ourselves and him a disservice.

Accompanied by Ken Mauri (The B-52’s) on carefully placed keys and Matthew “Doc” Dunn on gorgeous steel pedal, Mascis offers a comforting ramble through a set of gentle, fuzzy acoustic-driven tracks splashed generously with his trademark overdriven soloing.

Neil Young is the easiest reference point here, Mascis owing much to his affecting chord changes, melancholic croak, and instrumentation. You’ll sink into the loose, lush “Right Behind You” and the shambling delights of “Can’t Believe We’re Here” like a warm bath.

Lyrically, little changes for Mascis. He’s confused and regretful throughout: “I’ve been laughing but I’m lonesome,” he mutters on the countrified stroll of the title track. Further in, on the autumnal “You Don’t Understand Me,” Mascis finds himself again on the short end of the deal, “Couple people see me, couple people try / It’s not enough to get me through, waited all this time.”

These are the kinds of concerns Mascis has been rolling around in for decades and while, during a mid-album dip, this can feel repetitive, even tiresome, the golden glow of his playing and sleepwalk delivery can’t fail but to charm.

Of course his shredding solos crack into every track, always perfectly played, always emotive, and always the most genuinely expressive thing about his work. Yet it’s Mascis’ creaking voice that rides surprisingly high in the mix. He gives one of his finest, most precise vocal deliveries (performance would be an overstatement) on “Set Me Down” and swoops into falsetto on “End is Gettin Shaky.”

There’s nothing mind-blowing, nothing genre-bending or jolting on What Do We Do Now, just a bunch of familiar hooks, sad words, and sepia riffs, a thick blanket of lackadaisical warmth. (www.jmascis.com)

Author rating: 7/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10


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