By J Mascis
J Mascis can do no wrong when putting his hands to any music. From Dinosaur Jr, his work with The Fog, Witch, Sweet Apple, plus countless other album guest appearances with Sonic Youth, The Hold Steady, The Lemonheads, The Breeders etc, plus producing and engineering roles on albums such as those by Buffalo Tom amongst others. Basically the guy gets where water can't. For this stripped back acoustic album he has a little help back from Kurt Vilem, Hurt Fedora and members of A Silver Mount Zion, Broken Social Scene, Band Of Horses and Wounded Knees, to list but a few.
A couple of the songs on this album have been a few years in the making, nearly a decade to be exact, since the release of the Fog's 2002 album 'Free So Free'. Sub Pop asked for the likelihood of a solo album, and here it finally is. Most of the tracks are new. They are all acoustic with no drumming, a first for J who is also extremely skilled on them. The normal huge fuzz of his electric guitars is replaced by the slight fuzz of these acoustic guitars, and the engulfing amp stacks have left the building. J's fragile vocals are still present however, and compliment this album that really exposes his guitar capabilities as the power is stripped away.
The stand out track is the beautiful title track, showing the extraordinary fingerpicking style that is usually hidden behind a wall of glorious grunge noise. The added violin is just enough, not overpowering like the band on the titanic in its dying hour, just the right amount for this laid back quiet album. The lack of drums throughout is replaced with a tambourine on the catchy 'Not Enough'. The electric guitar however does make an appearance, quite cleanly in 'Where Are You', a song that Mascis' hero Neil Young would be proud of, and raising its head in 'What Happened' and 'Can I', screaming quietly underneath the gentle acoustic sounds. 'Too Deep' is the most stripped back song on the album, one of the first where the lyrics from this legendary songwriter can be actually heard! The lyrics themselves are direct, innocent and romantic; 'I can't make it alone', I can't wait to see you' and 'What happened Mama'.
This album would have been a 5 out of 5 but I believe it's biggest fans will be fans of the multi-talented musician, and it's a large step away from his main body of usual work. Many may long for the swirl of electric fuzz caving their eardrums in, whilst others will see the hidden beauty in these stripped down songs.