CD Review: J Mascis — Several Shades of Why; Playing The EARL, April 7

J. Mascis
Several Shades of Why
Sub Pop

By Ellen Eldridge

The astoundingly calm and pastel-painted color pallet of the cover art immediately invites listeners to delve into the latest project by Dinosaur Jr. founder J. Mascis. The introduction to his first solo album, Several Shades of Why, sounds, and even feels, peaceful, serene, quiet and affected, asking, quite literally by the title of the first track “Listen To Me,” to be listened to. The simplicity of purposefully leaving out drums adds to the complexity of the guitar work.

Each pull off and hammer on strikes the listener with rhythm. A mood appears out of the scenic cover and acoustic guitars; this is what Kurt Cobain could have become had he learned to temper his agony into tepid trepidation.

Track six, “Make It Right,” stirs in its vibrations a memory or an all-out allusion to the Beatles’ “Here Comes The Sun,” both musically and in the spirit of the lyrics.

Mascis’s patented rasp rips through the serenity of the earlier tracks creating the tension and angst so crucial to this genre of alternative, Seattle-based rock. The introduction to the ending comes in track nine, “Can I,” with its ominous, looming, and unnerving bass chords. The closing track, “What Happened,” kicks in with the fuzzy distortion just as the chorus climaxes with its lyric, “Got so high burnt my eyes…” The soloing seems off the scale and almost doesn’t fit, but the tension remains and feels like, metaphorically, something which should be heard outside of the scale.

Several Shades of Why gives what a listener would expect from J., a calm yet interrupted sense of acoustic melody and darker, looming riffs over songs about confusion, love, loneliness, and acceptance. An inspiring and peaceful blend for the morning with just enough distortion at the end to shake up the fans before hitting that replay button.

J. Mascis plays The EARL in Atlanta on April 7.

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