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Several Shades of Why, Moody, Standard and Poor, He Gets Me High

J Mascis, Obits, and Dum Dum Girls

Reviewed by Greg Beets, Fri., March 18, 2011

SXSW Records Sub Pop

J Mascis

Several Shades of Why (Sub Pop)

Obits

Moody, Standard and Poor (Sub Pop)

Dum Dum Girls

He Gets Me High (Sub Pop)

In embracing the ragged, early-1970s acoustic eclecticism of Crosby, Stills, Nash and/or Young, Dinosaur Jr.'s J Mascis turns a corner few could've predicted in 1987. Several Shades of Why is a poignant meditation on loss and where to go from here and what makes it more than just a competent confessional from a graying alt-rock icon are the sonic odds and ends. Mascis gets help from house guests including Kurt Vile and Band of Horses' Ben Bridwell, but the album unfolds like a solitary pursuit. With no blast furnace of distortion to hide behind, Mascis' voice is particularly raw and bereft, "Is It Done" building a soulful plea that erupts into an electric guitar solo redolent of hard rock balladry. Meanwhile, lap steel and flute commingle in bittersweet languor on "Make It Right." The fuzz finally foams over on "What Happened," and when it does you're almost surprised. With album No. 2, NYC's Obits fully realize the fuss that accompanied their formation. Moody, Standard and Poor jumps right in on "You Gotta Lose," a driving burst of nervous post-punk energy powered by Scott Gursky's relentless drum command. "Everything Looks Better in the Sun" couples 1960s garage-rock sneers with eerily cinematic, Wall of Voodoo guitar shards at a clip that encourages excessive speed. Ex-Drive Like Jehu/-Hot Snakes frontman Rick Froberg transforms a nasty schoolyard chant into a Molotov cocktail on "No Fly List" before perfecting the hold-and-release slow burn on "New August." Surfy instrumental closer "I Blame Myself" makes Moody a solid strike from start to finish. The stopgap four-song EP from Dum Dum Girls boasts three blasts of pleasant-but-unremarkable Spectorian noise-pop, but Dee Dee and company's cover of the Smiths' "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" is a spot-on reinvention. (Fri.: Obits, 9:40pm; Dum Dum Girls, 11:20pm; J Mascis, 12:10am; Red 7 Patio)

(J Mascis) ***

(Obits) ***.5

(Dum Dum Girls) **.5

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