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August 17, 2001 at 6:20 pm #43652
J. Mascis Is the Poet Laureate of Romantic Confusion
by Erin Franzman
WHEN MY LAST boyfriend dumped me, I wondered aloud, to anyone who’d listen, "Now where am I gonna find another PlayStation-addicted, unemployed musician with a fear of commitment?"
With J. Mascis coming to town, we can be assured of maximum saturation. Mascis is the poet laureate of romantic confusion
The genius of Mascis is that he hit the nail on the head over 10 years ago: Confusion is the hallmark of turn-of-the- millennium romance. What a bewildering time to be a man. The definitions of traditional masculinity have been recast as pejorative. If you enjoy organized sports, making money, or pursuing women, you’re dismissed. Strength, bravery, and honor are viewed as antiquated tools of the patriarchy. "Keep the Glove"–in which Mascis skews the marriage proposal with the line "If you don’t want my hand, keep the glove"–first appeared in 1987, documenting the shifting attitudes toward romance before anyone else noticed the ground moving.
On the other hand, if you reject those traditions too squarely, you might get written up in the Utne Reader: "R. Eirik Ott writes poetry, listens to Tori Amos, and attends gender conferences. So Ott created his own personal zine: The Wussy Boy Chronicles, an irreverent yet earnest look at the world of one man ‘caught somewhere between guy and gay.’"
Mascis eludes the "Wussy Boy" title because of his guitar god status, his notoriously cold firing of wussy boy Lou Barlow from Dinosaur Jr., and his advancement of that trademark of the confused male: the fear of commitment. Mascis’ songs operate in a vacuum of gender roles, where no one knows how to treat their peers. The tentative, tenuous alliances and attachments are formed in spite of themselves: "Sometimes I don’t thrill you. Sometimes I think I’ll kill you. Just don’t let me fuck up, will you? ‘Cause when I need a friend it’s still you."
Once I was listening to "Freak Scene" with a boyfriend. This was a song that, to me, was fraught with meaning and described our relationship, all my relationships, to a T. And I asked him what he thought it was about. He paused, contemplated, and said, "I don’t know." It was perfect
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