Right before I started learning guitar, I used to sit in my best friend’s room and watch him play. I didn’t really know what songs he was playing; indeed I didn’t really know anything about music or even particularly like it. And yet even though the room was cramped and musty, I would think of any reason to go up there and stumble around with my adolescent fingers on that mysterious slab of wood and wire.
There was just something different about this world I had chanced upon. All the speakers made buzzing noises, there were crumbling posters on the walls, and sticky skinned boys with stringy hair were very keen to tell you what they assumed was unassailable truth. And it was fantastic. It’s been many years and many melodies since those humid afternoons, and I don’t really recognise that half-formed person whose memories I share, but you can never really shake the wonder of hearing your first power-chord, or the feeling of fingers torn on the decades-old strings of your uncle’s guitar.
I’m not sure how to explain it, but J Mascis’ tunes are, for better or worse, the closest I’ve come to finding an audio representation of those long-gone days of worn carpets and N64 multiplayer. The melodies are sleepy and wistful – a grey-haired nearly-fifty-year-old singing and playing like a dewy teen with nowhere to be. His acoustic guitars bounce off each other’s rhythms, and I remember the time I first discovered the magic of overdubbing with Audacity and a $2 gaming mic. The gentle, slightly shapeless choruses are graced with a bracing, distorted solo, and I remember the first time I dared turned the ‘DIST’ knob up to 10. It’s not that he’s unprofessional – J Mascis is one of our greatest living guitarists, and more technically proficient than almost any alt-rocker you care to name. It’s his attitude – the earnest, meandering confusion that only good Pavement can match. I put on the album, and in the soft-fog of a blazed afternoon, I can smell the pollinated air, and feel the tender fingertips. J’s just a dude, with a guitar, playing some tunes. He’s fun to hang out with.