By Brandon Carson
J Mascis is not a household name and neither is his three-piece indie rock band of himself, Lou Barlow, and Murph that make up Dinosaur Jr. Mostly known for their hit in the ’90s called ‘Feel the Pain,’ Dinosaur Jr. made their underground stride known with albums like You’re Living All Over Me, Bug, and Where You Been? (which is interestingly classified as ‘Adult Alternative’ on Apple Music). Roaring, fuzzy guitar solos, loud crushing bass, and a mumbling low-toned voice carried Dinosaur Jr.’s sound back then. The band broke up in the early ’90s, and suddenly, Mascis (vocals, guitars) was left to do whatever he wanted with the band.
On Without a Sound and Hand It Over, Mascis turned down the volume and stripped back the heavy sound for some soft, sad tracks. But then 10 years later, the Dinosaur Jr. reunion happened, and we were given four albums from 2007 to 2016. In between these albums, Mascis made his own music with two albums, Several Shades of Why and Tied to a Star, where he returned to his soft sound he brought to Dinosaur Jr. in the ’90s. On his new record, Elastic Days, Mascis doesn’t stray away from that sound but expands upon it. His lyricism feels like a stream of consciousness, his instrumentation flows like a moody river, and his solos add an emotional depth to the music his voice and lyrics couldn’t do. Yet, as the album drags on, the music feels tired in certain areas.
An evolving, easy-going sound
Mascis formed a sound with Dinosaur Jr. that has not changed but has instead evolved from their first album to their current one. This holds true to Mascis’s own music, it has evolved. The production on this record sticks to a moody sound with swift melodies, and it sounds fantastic. Mascis did all of the instrumentation (minus the keyboards) himself, which helps the listener see his vision even more. The guitar chord progressions he uses compliments his lyrics with their melancholy tone. One thing that I mainly noticed with this record, it bridges the gap between a Dinosaur Jr. ballad and the first two Mascis solo albums.
A song that shows this clearly is the single “See You at the Movies.” It has a soft and breezy progression, with a Dinosaur Jr. sounding melody, balanced by these incredible sounding solos. Mascis is a skilled guitar player who I find extremely underrated. He can put an incredible amount of emotion into his riffs and solos. On Elastic Days, he creates the same experience with his solos. His playing on the album is driven and powerful, not only on the solos but in the chord progressions, bass, and drums.
The mood of the album is positive, yet negative at the same time. It remains the same throughout the record, making it grow tired after a full listen. The problem is not that every song sounds the same; there are actually a lot of differences between the playing, chords, structures, and melodies. The problem is the mood being so melancholy and no song really changes the sound up in a good way. This makes songs like “Give It Off,” “Wanted You Around,” and the closer “Everything She Said” forgettable after a first listen. However, I have listened to this album seven times in preparation for this review, and after five or six times, the songs really grew on me, and I appreciated them with time.
Mascis didn’t make the entire album himself, though. He brought along Mark Mulachy of Miracle Legion and Zoë Randell of Luluc for some added keys and vocals. One song that really shines with these extra contributors is “I Went Dust.” On this track, Mascis plays a slow Dinosaur Jr. acoustic riff while harmonizing a mesmerizing melody with Randell. Keyboard rhythms are found throughout the entire album, and they are done well by Ken Maiuri.
The music separates him from his band
A lot of artists take a break from their bands to create solo albums. Many times, however, they just recreate the music they made with their bands on their solo projects and leave listeners wondering, “Well, why don’t I just listen to the band then?” Thankfully this is not the case with Elastic Days. The music he makes here may have the soul of Dinosaur Jr., melancholy and hopeless, but the differences are in the music. I can’t see any of these on a Dinosaur Jr. record; they would feel out of place in a world of noise and angst.
Not for everyone
This album should be saved for a rainy day, literally. The mood is sad, the instrumentation and melodies are depressing, but it gives the music character. The music is unique and could be recognized in a heartbeat. Mascis has always made his music sound completely original, including the work he did for Dinosaur Jr., which is no different for this record. But this is definitely not for everyone. His voice is not perfect, and the music is far from generic or accessible. I wouldn’t expect the common listener of music to be into this sound, which is not a negative at all.
See You at the Movies
I Went Dust
Recommended if you like:
My Bloody Valentine
Featured Image: Bandcamp
‘Elastic Days’ is a moody, soft, and introspective album. The instrumentation helps put the listener into the world that the lyrics paint. The guitar solos are crisp and effective in bringing out the emotion of the lyrics. The contributors to the record add enough extra layers to certain songs to help expand the album’s sound. Near the end of the album, the music tires out and kept me wanting something different in sound.
Brandon Carson is a Journalism Major. He reviews music for Byte and also makes his own music on the side.