Nothing more heartening than on a cold dark Saturday night during a lockdown I sit down and begin typing my review of this rather sparse yet majestic J Mascis box set being released by Cherry Red Records. In fairness over the last few months, it seems a lot of bands are holding back on new material seeing as they aren’t able to trawl the towns and cities of the world promoting their new wares so its ripe pickings recently for the box set after box set of unreleased material or previously released material and hard to find stuff getting a new lick of paint and packaging and being re-released.
Now some companies just knock out reissues on heavyweight vinyl for the audiophiles out there and then there are some labels who actually excel in this field and release some rather nice box sets full of material both previously and not previously released and right at the top of that list has to be Cherry Red. To be fair they also have knocked out some really decent sets this year coving several genres.
Dinosaur Jr had their classic albums re-packaged a while ago with a plethora of bonus material that added up to some pretty impressive reissues and now it seems the turn of the creator in general J Mascis to release some of his live recordings. Starting with 3 CDs of solo acoustic musings. 93s live at the iconic CBGBs. Martin & Me’ that came out in 95. Then finally a live in Copenhagen recorded in 98.
CBGBs is where Mascis tugs on the heartstrings with a spine-tingling set of acoustic renditions of classic Dinosaur JR tunes with the likes of ‘Thumb’, ‘Keeblin’ and covers of ‘On The Run’ as he strums and picks his way through the set even remembering to talk in between songs it’s a glorious mishmash of songs stripped bare.
‘Martin & Me’ is a much clearer set with some of the same songs but a longer set that includes some rather interesting covers like who knew he’d cover ‘The Boy With The Thorn In His Side’ but its the emotional renditions of songs like ‘Goin Home’ that steals the show and makes the hair on my arms stand up as I type and listen. Ending the set this time with ‘Grab It’.
The third disc is of varying quality and probably my favourite of the three with awesome renditions of ‘Sure Not Over You’, ‘Little Fury Things’, ‘Drawerings’ and ‘Keep The Glove’. Fans will be all over this (sorry) and if you want to hear rough acoustic alternative rock at its finest drawing from the likes of Neil Young and churning out stripped back picking styles from a genuine guitar hero and songwriter.
Don’t think about it go pick up a copy and like I say if you’re already sold on his solo work or Dinosaur Jr then this is a no brainer.
Considered something of a maverick and not known for his interview sparkle J Mascis is some guitar player and songwriter. He’s been fairly consistent for several decades now and that’s no mean feat. through some choppy waters and more style changes this industry moves fast and if you stand still you will get left behind or trampled underfoot unless that is you are at the top of the pile and Dinosaur Jr were certainly that mainly due to this quartet of exemplary releases that dovetailed a new musical wind that blew away plenty of cobwebs and ushered in the likes of Dinosaur Jr and let them just put the music out and perform it without turning everything into a circus and put simply let the music do the talking and boy, did these albums talk.
Starting with ’91s classic ‘Green Mind‘. Originally coming out on Sire Records this was the dawn of a new musical era and with Mascis playing virtually everything on the record this version encapsulates the lot from that period pulling the ‘Wagon’ single and the subsequent non-album EP’s as well as live material from the period it also draws comprehensive sleeve notes from Mojo Magazines Keith Cameron who interviewed Mascis for these releases. ‘Green Mind’ lit the touchpaper and was most definitely something of a flag bearer for what was to follow.
The album still retains that freshness and wall of sound it had back in the early ’90s songs like ‘Puke + Cry’ and the title track was and still are awesome songs and have stood the test of time. The real gold here is pulling together the EP’s tracks like the snarling ‘Pebbles + Weeds’ and the excellent ‘Not You Again’ and the Bowie cover of ‘Quicksand (Wagon Reprise)’ and the feedback riffola of ‘Whatever’s Cool With Me’. Whoever had the wherewithal to pull this together with the live recordings deserves a pay rise.
Disc two sees a previously unreleased live recording from Hollywood from the time the record originally came out that features tracks like ‘the Lung’ ‘Keep The Glove’ and ‘Blowing It’ and the brilliant ‘Freak Scene’ it’s loose and loud but for fans, it’s essential listening. The vinyl sees an edited down tracklist due to the length of the running order but essential in my humble opinion.
‘Where You Been’ – was the band’s fifth record and quickly became the band biggest-selling record. 93 and the world were gripped by Grunge mania and Dinosaur Jr was considered something of a premier league player besides they hit the charts with the first single taken from the record and one of their finest ever tunes – ‘Start Choppin’ became a hit. ‘Where You Been’ sold well over a quarter of a million copies when it came out thrusting the trio into the American top 10. They were no longer an underground band with chart success in most record-buying communities. Having been invited to record a session with John Peel those tracks are collected here on disc two along with another great sounding live recording taken in St Pauls way back in ’93.
I’d not played this album in a number of years but one play brought home how great tracks like the gentle ‘Goin’ Home’ sounds as does the epic ‘Not The Same’.they’ve again pulled in the B sides and other tracks like pulling in the Funky Homosapien track ‘Missing Link’ taken from the Judgement Night soundtrack. But its disc two that fans will be all over from those Peel sessions to the acoustic tracks taken from the Evening Sessions ‘Severed Lip’ and ‘Thumb’ before the eight tracks taken from St Pauls not the best sounding recordings but essential listening for fans. I have in my collection a strange fruit release of a Peel sessions that have more tracks on it but that’s not all here. Regardless another era-defining album that is an essential purchase.
‘Without A Sound‘ came at a cost as long-time drummer Murph bailed on the band leaving Mascis to perform the album almost single handidly. It did achieve further commercial success as this one reached #44 in the US album charts a new high and spawned a couple of big singles in the shape of the albums opening two tracks ‘Feel The Pain’ and the more accessible ‘I Don’t Think So’.
The band had never been so popular and ‘Without A Sound’ also saw them tour extensively in support of the record. I knew it had to happen but this album pulls in b sides and live recordings but four instrumentals is really reaching out to the anoraks amongst us I guess if you want to do an early 90s karaoke.
The second disc sees the band rock up in London with a really excellent sounding recording that kicks off with a blistering ‘Freak Scene’ closely followed by a brutal ‘Out there’ that make up five tracks that are getting their first-ever airing. it also houses a guitar players dream as the band performs a near ten minute ‘What Else Is New’. To be fair there isn’t a great deal of repetition throughout these albums and considering they are made up of sessions and live material you don’t get a dozen takes of ‘Start Choppin’ or ‘the Wagon’ unlike many other reissues labels and bands put out. A great deal of care and attention has gone into these and the quality shines through. As for the live shows included this London one is on another level.
‘Hand It Over’ The final reissue of the classic era Dinosaur Jr sees the band return in ’97 and many proclaiming that American alternative Rock is dead and buried but Mascis has other ideas. With pretty much the same formula that has served him well he remained somewhat detached from all the drama that was Grunge. I remember putting the CD in the player and the moment ‘I Don’t Think’ broke out it was unmistakable Dinosaur Jr. ‘Never Bought It’ sailed close to a bit of alt prog with the flute but that’s all wiped away with the raw guitar of ‘Nothing’s Going On’. Mascis has an instantly recognizable vocal style but the sound has certainly evolved.
there are experimental moments with the horn on ‘I’m Insane’ but the title might be a declaration to explain the horn who knows? All things change but some things stay the same, ‘Can’t We Move This Along’ has the familiar overdriven bonkers guitar work and the epic ‘Alone’ is right up there with Mascis finest pieces. ‘Getting Rough’ is cotton pickin bluegrass that I never saw coming. Whilst the album eases out with the gentle ‘Gotta Know’ its then the bonus material sees what was originally a bonus disc on the original release of tracks written for a Matt Dillon movie ‘Grace Of My Heart’. ‘Take A Run At The Sun’ is a classic but the punk thrasher of ‘what We Do Is Secret’ is most welcome along with a couple of tracks live From ABC. To round things off and complete this delve into the majestic world of classic dinosaur Jr there are nine tracks recorded live in Stockholm Sweden.
so, in conclusion, it’s fair to say you are gonna need these and in for a penny in for a pound you might have to get the complete set of CD’s and LPs now I’m going to have to ask for a raise on my pocket money because I can’t pass these by.
Kevin Michael “GG” Allin was born Jesus Christ Allin on August 29, 1956. One of the most divisive members of the punk rock community he courted controversy wherever and whenever he could. Love him or loathe him he certainly left an impression on the punk rock scene in the 80s and early ’90s. Passing away on this day back in 93 is possibly one of the least surprising things to have happened in punk rock. Let’s face it GG was never going to grow old and after promising to take his own life on stage as part of his act many times he sort of quietly slid off his mortal coil in tragic circumstances. Playing his last ever show in NYC the club turned off the power after a couple of songs which caused Allin to trash what wasn’t already trashed and then roaming the street almost naked covered in blood and shit the performer ended up partying at a friends house where he took a lethal Heroin overdose and never woke up being pronounced the morning after by paramedics exactly where he laid down the night before.
I guess whilst it wasn’t a surprise to hear the news it’s still a shame to hear about anyone passing away under such tragic circumstances. Allin was fairly prolific throughout his career and moving from his early more glam roots he passed through punk, hardcore and country as well as spoken words performances Allin was no slouch when it came to what he considered art.
Even in death, the Allin circus continued when he was laid to rest his open casket was videotaped and he can be seen wearing a jock strap accompanied by a bottle of booze whilst friends posed with his corpse, placing drugs and whiskey into his mouth. As the funeral ended, his brother Merle put a pair of headphones on Allin. plugged them into a cassette player which had a copy of The Suicide Sessions on it.
The film ‘Hated’ features the footage of that final performance and chaos that went on after. Sadly GG’s grave was frequently vandalised urinated on, cigarette butts left as well as feces and alcohol left by so-called fans, an act that was greatly discouraged by his mother Arleta. His tombstone has since been removed because of this.
Musically he was a Beatles fan and that was reflected in his early songs other bands that greatly influenced him were the likes of Alice Cooper, the Stooges and Kiss. when he put the Jabbers together.
Allin became popular when ROIR released a cassette-only ‘Hated in the Nation’ containing tracks from the Jabbers, the Scumfucs and Cedar Street Sluts. All unavailable elsewhere. The tape also featured recordings with the likes of J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. on lead guitar and Mark Kramer on bass. The most famous person to work with GG would have to be none other than Dee Dee Ramone who toured with the band as part of the Murder Junkies.
It wasn’t until the mid ’80s that he began to spiral out of control as his commercial career failed to take off he took full advantage of his underground personal and the myths began to appear (remember kids this is pre-internet) Allin was already making record designed to offend and provoke and he certainly achieved that with titles and collaborations to cause outrage (which they certainly did) the subject matter was attacking gay people, promoting drug use and his fascination with serial killers like Gacy led him to go visit the guy in prison. Live he couldn’t finish a set either because the fans stopped it or the police and/or venue interrupted him for his behavior.
There was nothing big or clever about his behavior from the mid-’80s as he tried to stir up a hornet’s nest at every opportunity by saying repulsive comments about women, children, and boasting of his antics. The music had long since stopped being relevant and instead he’d turned into a parody of himself and covered in ones own blood and poop began to fade into history and be a figure of fun that people would poke fun at and goad on to carry out his threat of killing himself on stage. In 91 he recorded with Antiseen what he described as his best album that most closely connected with himself.
If you’ve never heard him or fancy seeing what all the fuss was about then I suggest you check out ‘Hated’ it sure is an extreme ride and one you won’t forget in a hurry. I hope finally after such a chaotic life GG found his peace and afterlife and he can finally rest in peace.
you can pick up his records on the net but this company Aggronautix make a whole bunch of GG related collectibles as well as other bands and iconic figures in punk you really should check them out.
Also passing on this day back in ’81 a guy named Robert “Bob” Davis better known as Chuck Wagon from the punk band the Dickies. Chuck was a talented multi-instrumentalist who played Drums, Bass, Rhythm Guitars, keyboards and Saxophone. He will be best remembered for their iconic debut record ‘The Incredible Shrinking Dickies’. He also returned to the band to record its follow up ‘Dawn Of The Dickies’ as well as playing a few tracks on the third album which came out after his untimely suicide. suffering from depression after the breakup of his relationship Wagon returned after a show with the band and shot himself with a rifle this was 1981 and he was only twenty Five years young. Rest in peace Bob.
Finally today former Gun Club guitarist Rob Graves also known as Rob Ritter. Rob died of a Heroin Overdose on this day in ’90. Rob played with the Gun Club, 45 Grave as well as a bunch of other lesser known bands like The Bags and. Graves played on Gun Clubs early 80s ‘Fires Of Love’ and ‘Miami’ as well as 45 Grave ‘Sleep In Safety’. Gun Club will always be remembered as the vehicle used by Jeffrey Lee Pierce but 45 Graves were part of the art Goth Rock scene with their striking images and this outlandish video for ‘Party Time’. Its believed that Hole and Courtney Love dedicated ‘Pretty On The Inside’ to Rob when it came out.
Yeah, he of Dinosaur Jr just sneaked out another solo album. with no fanfare no bells or whistles it just came out at the tail end of 2018 but some artists just do that and when you eventually catch up with them you know it’s going to be good because they don’t really do bad records and J. Mascis is one of those artists. Unassuming, quiet and notorious for being a man of very few words and that’s from his peers but his talking is most certainly done through the medium of music and ‘Elastic Days’ is another melancholy masterclass bu perhaps not as bleak as you might expect in fact I found it to be a really happy record its not the banana splits or Julie Andrews skipping through fields but quite warm and heartening and full of great melodies and song appropriate guitar breaks and not big dollops of distorted strat thrown in to melt your face as you listen.
sure he has his other outlet for the college rock power tunes so he can release his gentler side through the records carrying just his name and this the third in that list might just be the best carrying just his name. This record begins with the warm and engaging ‘See You At The Movies’ which isn’t quite the insular cold one man and his acoustic you might have expected. Its more like Jnr without Murph and Lou but its happy go lucky and to be fair a great understated opener. ‘Web So Dense’ is more of the bruised heart loner type song you might expect with a great arrangement and the moment two thirds in where he raises from a whisper to the top of his range is wonderful and then to follow it up with one of his trademark solos will hit the spot for a legion of old-school fans playing catch up.
‘I Went Dust’ sees a duet with Zoe Randell that stripped back and warming there is an awkwardness to Mascis songs like a stranger is opening up to their innermost personal feelings and you don’t quite know how to react but ultimately it sounds fucking awesome so you keep listening anyway. and those outrageously loud guitar breaks always break through any awkward moment and make you smile sort of like the sun rising on a freezing cold morning – everything is gonna be alright. It’s not as bleak or limited as previous solo recordings there is a campfire warmth happening here and its possibly the perfect bridge between what he’s done before and what he does in Dinosaur Jr which for me is a great place to be and whilst he’s not hit the dizzy heights of ‘Bug’, ‘Start Choppin’ or ‘Green Mind’ this is right on track to being mentioned alongside such classic pieces of work at Mascis’ hands.
Spread out over twelve tracks there is a swing in variety and feel to these songs and whilst they are all undeniably the work of one man they flow really well and I’m happy that I’ve got my fix on ‘Elastic Days’ that is a most excellent record. I look forward to the next Dinosaur Jr album now when these kinda songs get turned up and fed through louder amps and wear a different pair of comfy shoes. His most accessible work to date if you’re a fan already you’ll love it and if your dipping your toes in then this won’t disappoint.