The evolution of J Mascis from distortion-fuelled grunge overlord into introspective acoustic wizard has been one of American music’s more remarkable recent transitions. Starting in 2011 with ‘Several Shades Of Why’ the guitarist has unplugged his Big Muff and opted for something quieter, but no less distinct.
‘Elastic Days’ is his third album in this guise, and it’s a plaintive, poetic, and endlessly endearing return, a sign that the acoustic well, while previously untapped, remains brimming with inspiration. ‘See You At The Movies’ is a pleasant, pastoral opener, while ‘Web So Dense’ has a wonderful sense of grace.
‘Sky Is All We Had’ opens with deft finger-picked notes, before giving way to an urgent, pleading vocal from J Mascis, stripped back and vulnerable in a raw, honest way. The shortest song on the album ‘Give It Off’ is a beautifully restrained piece of music, those plunging piano chords underpinning a poignant lyric, with J warning “I’m not that strong…” as the tension rises.
‘Cut Stranger’ is an incisive performance, those plangent guitar notes delivered with refreshing exactness – after years of those wild, electrifying guitar solos it still remains a beautifully crisp experience to hear J Mascis perform with such melodic precision.
‘Sometimes’ has that hazy late summer feel, while closing cut ‘Everything She Said’ is a 70s tinged folk rocker, a kind of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young performance channelled through J’s mangled mane. It’s a stirring piece, a wonderful climax to a record laced with such exuberance, such unrestrained feeling.
While J Mascis’ acoustic dalliances began almost as a dare, they’ve grown t become a vital part of his aesthetic, a means for him to explore hitherto uncharted sonic hues. ‘Elastic Days’ seems to live up to the line on ‘See You At The Movies’ where J says: “I don't peak too early / I don't peak at all…”
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