It was in that cavernous bedroom of yours that you played me “Start Choppin’” and something fundamental changed.
Sure, I’d heard guitars already. Rob had introduced me to Hendrix the summer before and I’d fallen in love with the groove of Crosstown Traffic, the insouciance of Stone Free and the volume of Voodoo Chile. But I’d never heard J Mascis before.
Now I write this, maybe asserting something different between the two Js, I’m not sure how well I can pin it down. Maybe it’s about noise vs rock’n’roll, maybe it’s about precision, maybe it doesn’t matter. It wasn’t Hendrix that you played me: it was Dinosaur Jr. It held me silent and profoundly struck.
It was years later that I had the confidence to approach the music for myself, to try ‘Where You Been’. Its first outing, weirdly, was to soundtrack a stoned writing session for a wedding-themed quiz. When we hit those opening chords, there you were. Right with us, face glimpsed in the smoke.
And now, all these years later, the Dinosaurs are still going, the original line-up now several albums into their second coming. And you’re not here to share it with. It seems fitting that, as much as J Mascis is still absolutely hammering those solos to the heavens, there are more mellow sounds on offer, for the middle-aged gentlemen we could have been together.
‘Garden’ is that mid-tempo gem.
I’m no major fan of Lou Barlow’s voice. For all its tunelessness and mumble, J Mascis will always beat the earnest, workmanlike Barlow. But there is a time and a place for such steadiness, and it’s here in this lament about the state of the world, slowly sliding as it seems to be into oblivion while we watch in horror and impotence. The song doesn’t ask too much of me and I don’t have a lot to give right now. It offers sustenance, though, a hand to hold against it all. And the accompany video, of the band performing in the snow, is strangely soothing, perhaps on account of the absence of mouths, hidden as they are behind masks.
All in all, the time I’ve spent in its company has been respite from everything going on right now. As much as I like it, and am grateful for it, I’d rather we could be sharing it, André.
The new album, ‘Sweep It Into Space’ is out tomorrow, 23 April on Jagjaguwar with a livestream performance on 1 May.