J Mascis has rightfully claimed his place as a modern guitar God in the 30-plus years since the seminal You’re Living All Over Me came out in 1987; an album that (apart from the little known debut of ’85) introduced the world to his unique talents, including that highly distinctive slacker drawl.
Still at the coalface of music making, and on another upward curve in terms of commercial success, Elastic Days is his third solo album to go along with the 11 he has released with Dinosaur Jr, and his first since 2014’s Tied To A Star. It’s a collection over-flowing with epic hooks, and distorted-yet-precise guitar solos, made almost exclusively by himself – drums, bass, piano and guitars, along with a host of guests such as Zoe Randell of Luluc on backing vocals, Mark Mulcahy of Miracle Legion, and Pall Jenkins of The Black Heart Procession.
Taking a largely semi-acoustic approach this time around, Mascis’ solos are still instantly recognisable; clean yet complex, distorted and loud, fuzz-laden and melodic. Here, Mascis merges the almost entirely acoustic approach of his 2011 solo album Several Shades of Why, with the explosive guitar pyrotechnics that he is best known for, almost every song featuring one of those powerful solo excursions, whilst allowing his vocals to take centre-stage, an aspect of his musicality that has become a little more nuanced over time.
Right from the muted sparkle of opener ‘See You at the Movies’, Mascis’ famously introverted personality ‘shines’ through: “Finding you is easy / Finding me is hard / Finding you is easy / I’ll just try to stall / I don’t peak too early / I don’t peak at all,” as he hits the pedals for a typically coruscating solo amidst the driving acoustic rhythm of the track. While ‘Web So Dense’, is a country-flavoured downtempo ballad that makes way for unusually conservative licks, and ‘I Went Dust’ is led by mournful acoustic and piano before typically stepping up a gear or two midway, driving drums stepping in, a huge guitar solo riding atop in celebratory fashion. Then ‘Sky Is All We Had’ is just acoustic to begin with, as Mascis once again sings about escaping, before reining himself in salvation fashion.
Musically, Mascis manages to avoid the maudlin throughout, the pace and tempo forever shifting here and there, the vibe surprisingly upbeat, the overall sound like a band effort, with plenty of energy and urgency within its cuts, Mascis showing himself to be quite the drummer. Such as on the mildly toe-tapping, driving acoustic ‘Drop Me’, which marries his melodically downcast vocal with a sunny groove. There’s also the uplifting final track ‘Everything She Said’, and the fast acoustic rhythm of ‘Sometimes’, here Mascis employing short, dampened, and nuanced riffs throughout, the song again shifting gear suddenly midway, the groove powering along one of those blistering solos, before the song, as do many here, ending rather abruptly, without undue indulgence.
Elastic Days, as does most of his solo work, showcases a different side to Mascis, as opposed to the still searingly loud work he makes with his long-term band. Yet, it is equally contemplative within its varying tempos and styles. As he sings on the simply rhythmic title track, the sentiment all about making one’s days elastic in order to cope: “Let’s expect no more than all elastic day / Hold your feelings back for all elastic, all elastic day”.