For a man so infamously aloof, J Mascis’ debut solo album, 2011’s ‘Several Shades of Why’, felt awfully vulnerable.
The acoustic sound that few expected from a man so tied to his electric guitar, the hushed vocals, the finger-picking – all these duped us into assuming the LP was personal.
But beneath the surface, Mascis, as ever, was hiding behind lyrical ambiguity: “Got to wait this time/ Why should I have time to answer?/ Several shades of why/ I can’t go back, it’s faster,” he gently
sang on the album’s title track. ‘Tied to a Star’, his second solo effort, drops the confessional guise entirely,Mascis
mostly replacing the gentle acoustics of ‘Several Shades’ with hearty,
American guitar playing, and odes to living like humans do – with anxiety, fear, love and hope. It’s all the more cohesive because of it.
Whilst the Dinosaur Jr frontman’s ear for hooks has never really been in doubt, ‘Tied to a Star’ brings a beautiful (and perhaps unexpected) emotional honesty to bear. It’s filled
with little moments – like when Mascis questions himself on ‘Better Plane’ (“Will I be there to see?”),
or when his vocals soar hopefully on opener ‘Me Again’,
or when ‘Drifter’’s guitar line breaks off, only to accelerate through its heady three minutes of joy – where the man, rather than the musician,
takes a front seat. As a man so socially awkward, Mascis is imperfect as a rock star, yes, but also familiar and beautiful. Just like ‘Tied to a Star’.
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