Published Nov 07, 2018Praised for continuously feeding the fix of feedback-crazed fans, Jazzmaster aficionado J Mascis has returned with a gentler offering — one that's just as confident, despite its modest approach. Elastic Days is the sort of semi-stripped-down record that'll be best enjoyed outside, somewhere where the grass is a little taller, but not necessarily greener. Tasteful and direct, the record maintains a level of intimacy that's usually secondary on a typical Dinosaur Jr. album.
Most of Elastic Days is built atop strong acoustic foundations, weaving in leads and percussion of various intensities and occasionally fiddles around with additional instrumentation. These songs are also Mascis's most colourful vocal performances to date, as he toys with more adventurous melodies and falsetto-oriented hooks, like on "Picking Out the Seeds."
Ironically, what brings this record to life, unlike other Mascis projects, are the more delicate numbers. Both "Elastic Days" and, perhaps the album's most put-together song, "Sky Is All We Had," find J at his strongest, where every component is equally important in creating something memorable.
And while there is a guitar solo on just about every track, these solos aren't just another obnoxious baby-boomer riffing inappropriately, trying to prove something to strangers in a Guitar Center; J has earned this right, and he exercises it to full potential. For him, the art of the solo shouldn't be reduced to a cheap gimmick used by guitar veterans in a pissing contest — it's an essential part of songwriting that should be done with meaning and precision. Often where his singing abilities are lacking, Mascis finds a placement and run of the neck to ensure his true voice is always heard.
Though the volume is dialled back, this type of songwriting has been pumped out of J's guitars, amps and vocal cords, in some form, since the early days of Dino Jr. Comfortable and content with what he does, Mascis isn't trying to be anyone but himself. This will probably be labeled a folk-rock record, but at its core Elastic Days rocks. As always in the expanding world of Mr. Mascis, rock is alive and well — it's the only way to be. (Sub Pop)