February 5, 2005 at 8:03 pm #47622
Bush Hall, London
Saturday January 22nd 2005
There’s something terribly disconcerting about seeing people you haven’t set eyes on for a very long time. After the initial joy (or anger or indifference, I suppose) you can’t help but notice how old they’ve grown. Your good friends, family, partner and people like that never seem to age, as you’re never apart from them for long enough. But there is something terribly jarring about someone who’s been out of your life for years – their crow’s feet, love handles and thinning hair. It’s like looking at a flip book with most of the middle pages ripped out. It provides a mini reminder of your own mortality; time’s winged chariot is rudely at your back again. Whichever, it’s about 17 years since I last saw J Mascis, fronting the then nascent Dinosaur Junior – and it shows.
Of course it shouldn’t matter how he looks – I’m no oil painting and most people don’t judge me on it. But unfortunately you can’t help but notice Mascis’ slumped and reticent demeanour. Once comically applaudable and much mimicked by Gen X slackers everywhere, it now just make him look tired and beaten down as he sits alone on a bare stage doing a psuedo unplugged set of Dinosaur and solo songs. The harsh neon red and blue lighting give him a worryingly cadaverous look, set off by incongruous leisure wear and trademark long hair.
It’s different when he first ambles on stage. For a bit there’s instant recognition, and the acolytes who pack Bush Hall greet him like a second visitation of some very scruffy Christ. As part of this initial rush we’re treated to a medly that includes ‘Someone Said’, ‘The Lung’, ‘Quest’ and a tantalising snippet of ‘Freakscene’ that’s enough to awake nape hairs from their lazy slumber.
The format he follows now is to strum out verse and chorus before stamping on a distortion pedal and grinding out guitar solos. These range from the short and well executed to the mind-numbingly long, free festival bastardry that I thought had been put to sleep years ago. In 1987 things were different, and it seemed as if Mascis, along with bands like Sonic Youth and the Butthole Surfers, were going to change the way guitar music was played for good. Mascis’ veneer of studied nonchalance hid a terrifying excitement. Now it is nonchalance alone, and he looks like he could be doing this in his sleep. Hell, for all I know, for half of this set he probably is. It’s not to say that there aren’t gems – ‘Little Fury Things’ and ‘Not You Again’ still hit the mark, but for the most part this is like trying to get used to the taste of aspartamine when youâ€™re used to full sugar lemonade.
Flautist Suzanne Thorpe joins him to liven up ‘Thumb’ and ‘Alone’ by the narrowest of margins, and by the time he gets round to playing ‘The Wagon’ and the old indie disco staple, his cover of The Cure’s ‘Just Like Heaven’, I’m glad that it’s over, even if everyone else is baying for more. However, I do feel like I’ve learned something from the experience. And that is to keep people that I love in my line of sight from now on to avoid this kind of dislocating disappointment in the future.
John DoranFebruary 6, 2005 at 8:10 am #107354
Yikes, not sure what he was expecting, a freeze dried J that hadn’t aged after 17 years…another review with a focus on style versus substanceFebruary 6, 2005 at 9:46 am #107355
I can’t help but smile through my morning today ,because I keep thinking of my Aunt in Mississippi and in her beautiful lilting drawl, saying something like she has said to us girls a hundred times "Dammit, J Mascis, Did you leave your personal trainer at home?"
I mean, What is up with those Brit crits and their appearance obsession?February 6, 2005 at 12:16 pm #107356
i think you’ve hit the nail on the head there annastefka …
there’s a fair amount of ageism that goes on over here, especially w/regards to music …
but the flipside of that is, there’s a strong tendency to champion anything that’s new … which is great for people starting out, but not so good for those who’ve been around a while …February 7, 2005 at 7:12 am #107357
The guy should just go see some new band if he wants to go on about age it`s like in the `50s jazz critics were down on Billie Holiday saying her voice was`nt what it used to be and blah blah blah but I think her `50s recordings are just as good as her `30s and `40s stuff,maybe even better.If you saw her perform in 1956 someone might say ‘she was better in 1939!’ but those lucky to see her in `56 probably remember it for the rest of their lives.Bad performance,not!February 7, 2005 at 11:44 am #107358
This guy is an asshole! I’ve never read any reviews before, is this how everyone gets treated? This was ridiculous, he sat there and berated him for no reason. I don’t understand who would want the job of a critic, they’re washed up, bitter people.
I just saw J two times last year and how much older he was made it that much more meaningful to me when he stomped on that distortion box and proceeded to slit my throat with his raunchy guitar phrasing. He came in to the Caledonia on one of his "pseudo acoustic shows" and had this purple fuzzy ball skiing cap on and this big purple coat. It was awesome, he inspired me so much with that performance and to be so old and still rocking out and being creative, doing what he loves. God bless fucking J! I think we should make the Salem ancestors proud and burn that critic on a stake!
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