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J Mascis + the Fog
As the leader of seminal ’80s indie-rock outfit Dinosaur Jr., J Mascis perfected the fine art of sonic obfuscation, writing songs with fragile pop melodies but singing them in a weary voice that cracked beautifully under the pressure of his group’s blunt-instrumental attacknot to mention several thick layers of post-punk ennui and a bongload or three of fine Colombian Gold. But smart boy Mascis never let the band’s commitment to Strum and Drang obscure its catchy parts, and used well-chosen covers of Peter Frampton’s “Show Me the Way” and the Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” to frame Dinosaur Jr.’s music as pure pop for grunge people. On the new More Light, Mascis refines that approach a bit, easing off the distortion pedal long enough for the elegant jangle of “Ground Me to You” to bubble and scrape its way to the surface. “Waistin” is just as lovely, with Mascis lacing atmospheric synths through his requisite guitar crunch. Elsewhere, however, the old Dinosaur is up to his familiar tricks. On “Same Day,” the disc’s body-slamming opener, power chords manhandle the vocals as Mascis’ guitar heroics pay ironic but nonetheless ass-kicking tribute to ’70s arena-rock excess. “Where’d You Go” is similarly brutal, and “Back Before You Go” channels both Rainbow and Hüsker Dü to predictably savage effect. Been there? Done that? You bet. But nobody does it heavier than Mascis, so newcomers and old fans alike should find plenty to shake their manes to. Shannon Zimmerman