Tied To A Star
It’s kinda funny that it took until 2011 for J Mascis to release a solo album of original material – funny, because Dinosaur Jr has sometimes been just J, or very nearly. And then when he first stepped out from the Dinosaur name it was as J Mascis + The Fog. And then he hit the road as a solo act to promote the album/s. Even when his band/s sound as good as they could it’s always J at the helm – up there doing no wrong.
Several Shades of Why, that album from 2011 – effectively J Mascis’ debut solo album – was lovely. As the guy in the shop told me, “it’s Dinosaur Jr for old people. Which is me”. Me too. I’m old people. I still love the noise that J makes with Heavy Blanket and Witch and Dinosaur Jr’s comeback/reunion has seen a couple of kick-ass albums, up there with the band’s best. Then there’s the power-pop feel, both on the most recent Dino J album and Sweet Apple’s The Golden Age of Glitter. J has got it covered. He’s never seemed so inspired, so busy. Of course it’s all shrugged off, served up as bored, nothing’s changed.
And nothing has changed – all that much – for Tied To A Star, sister volume, essentially, to Several Shades. A few more shades of acoustic hue, the odd buzz of electric guitar – set to phase(r) never stun.
But there are some truly gorgeous songs here – Trailing Off, which turns into the closest thing here to a bona fide Dinosaur Jr song, that bursting scribble of lead held down until finally the pinched hose is set free.
Opener, Me Again, sets the tone – the title even telling you, in a sense, what to expect. Here’s J. He’s probably been sitting in a bedroom or lounge somewhere, the same records on for inspiration, a pizza box and an empty bottle nearby, that lovely, gentle fingerpicking and that voice – so beautiful because of its limitations. A wee bleat here, and then with that same Neil Young-like surprise, the voice actually makes it. Gets to where you couldn’t have guessed it was going to climb.
Every Morning is next and the strum here is reminiscent of J’s live solo album, Martin & Me, where he rewrote a bunch of Dino J songs for the stage. A very short burst of Dinosaur guitar to punctuate.
Wide Awake could be the finest song he’s written – certainly the finest “Dinosaur Jr for old people” song.
And then we get And Then – the next finest song he’s written.
Just as you think that Tied is going to drift along, lovingly and lovely, there’s s slight break-up with the Zeppelin-esque instrumental (maybe the Led Zeppelin III reissue made it onto his turntable recently?)
And in the closing brace of Come Down and Better Plane we have what feel like two perfect Dinosaur Jr Unplugged songs. You’ve heard this all before – well, nearly all. And that’s why you’re back. Tied To A Star isn’t really offering anything close to a surprise – save for one instrumental piece. It’s a sticks-to-the-knitting reminder that Mascis is at the top of his game whether jamming for an hour at break-neck intensity or simply crafting a lovely, simple, sweet and vaguely-haunting song.
Shit he’s in good form right now. The best. The closing moments of this record – a ghostly trace of his electric guitar, the acoustic underpinning, well, it doesn’t need words…it’s just lovely. Wonderful. It takes you to where you need to be.