j mascis

Do you need to spend a ton on a gig-worthy axe? Probably not.

There has never been a better time to get your hands on a gig-ready guitar without breaking the bank. Sure, we’ve all lusted after the high-end models, but these 10 guitars balance affordability, features, and construction.

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J Mascis, with drummer Murph to his left and bassist Lou Barlow at right, was initially a drummer himself, but transitioned to guitar in order to capture his vision of Dinosaur Jr.’s sound.
Photo by Levi Walton

Alt-rock guitar hero J Mascis might be soft-spoken, but when it comes to guitar, he blasts everything to 10. Get an inside look at the making of Dinosaur Jr.’s new album, Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not.

J Mascis doesn’t say much, but he doesn’t have to. He’s an alternative rock icon—an awkward guitar hero from a music scene not usually interested in guitar heroes. He plays with grace, finesse, and stubborn self-confidence; churns out riffs with abandon; and writes artful but listenable songs. He plays loud, too. But volume isn’t a gimmick. It’s an aesthetic statement that’s also tuneful and tasteful.

Mascis has been around for a while. His band, Dinosaur Jr., started in Western Massachusetts in the mid-1980s and rose from the ashes of Deep Wound, a hardcore band that featured Mascis on drums. Dinosaur Jr.—with Mascis on guitar, Lou Barlow on bass, and Murph on drums—was loud, audacious, and influential, releasing three acclaimed albums, including their 1985 debut Dinosaur, You’re Living All Over Me (1987), and Bug (1988), before unraveling in 1989. Mascis soldiered on without his original mates, and the band signed with a major label, Sire, in the early ’90s. They got significant exposure and released a number of alternative anthems like “Out There” and “The Wagon.” But by decade’s end, Dinosaur Jr. had morphed into J Mascis and the Fog, and that seemed to be the end of the line.

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The first single from the Dinosaur Jr. frontman’s sixth solo album starts off great and gets better—especially on the solos.

Even when J Mascis is crooning over an up-tempo tune, his vocals somehow sound like he tracked them while he was still in bed. And, as with most of his recordings, that sleepy signature singing style is just part of the charm. “Every Morning” is no exception. It starts off with sprightly strummed acoustic guitar before a simple meat-and-potatoes rhythm section ushers in Mascis’ meditative melodies, replete with those high octave harmonies fans know and love. Even when he lets loose on the kinds of punchy Marshall-pushed leads synonymous with all things Dinosaur Jr., it’s the catchy chorus that reminds us how—in addition to being a guitar luminary—he’s also one of the better songwriters of our time.

Tied to a Star also promises guest contributions from Mark Mulcahy (Miracle Legion, Polaris), Cat Power, Pall Jenkins (the Black Heart Procession), and others. More importantly, if the rest of the songs are as great as this one, it will be much more than an album to put on while you’re waiting for the next Dinosaur Jr. release. jmascis.com

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