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    Selected by Dan Grunebaum

    J. Mascis

    Before grunge there was something called indie-rock (remember?!), and one of its leading men was J. Mascis, who at the front of his Dinosaur Jr. outfit gave a gritty, slightly off-key voice to the wimps and losers of the world, years before Cobain and Co. formed Nirvana. For two nights in February, Mascis will return to remind us he’s still around, when he steps out in front with new band the Fog in a brief Japan tour to introduce his recent album, More Light.

    There was never any doubt that J. Mascis, a notoriously difficult individual, in effect equaled Dinosaur Jr., the band he formed in the college town of Amherst, Massachusetts in 1983. A string of releases like 1987’s You’re Living All Over Me and 1988’s Bug on leading indie label SST crept insistently up the college charts, earning the band a growing fan base.

    With his off-kilter chord progressions and monster guitar solos, Mascis was a major influence on the burgeoning grunge movement, writing songs that were intensely personal before notables like Kurt Cobain came along.

    Dinosaur Jr. briefly disbanded in 1989, mainly as an excuse for Mascis to drop bassist Lou Barlow, who went on to form Sebadoh. After sitting in on drums with a succession of bands, Mascis reformed Dinosaur Jr. in 1991, releasing their first major label recording Green the same year.

    Ironically, Nirvana supported Dinosaur Jr. on their Green tour. And, while Dinosaur Jr. were hailed as godfathers of grunge after Nirvana’s success and the alternative rock breakthrough, they never received even a fraction of the adulation accorded to Nirvana, and seemed content to remain cult favorites.

    In 1996, Mascis released his solo debut, Martin and Me, and soon disbanded Dinosaur Jr. after their final 1997 album Hand It Over.

    Issued this past September, More Light has been hailed as Mascis’best album in years. NME puts its stamp of approval on the work, gushing, “Coated in blatant ’70s AOR rock, casually tossed-away guitar solos and a liberal splash of that trademark guitar fuzz, a timely reminder of his pervading influence."

    In a recent in-store performance at a Tokyo HMV, Mascis put down his electric guitar and performed songs from More Light on unaccompanied acoustic guitar, hypnotizing the audience and providing a taste of what concertgoers can expect from a still-burning light in the rock firmament.

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