When one thinks of Dinosaur Jr as a live act, loud often gets used.(Ask us about the hearing loss we incurred after seeing Dinosaur Jr and My Bloody Valentine live at Liberty Lunch back in the day.) Yet frontman J Mascis also undertook a solo acoustic career, performing live with just him and his Martin guitar. Fed Up And Feeling Strange documents Mascis’s development as a solo performer, tracing his progress from his very first live show to a live performance at the end of the first Dinosaur Jr run.
In a way, it’s not really surprising J would perform solo during the early part of the decade. The band’s major label debut Green Mind and much of its follow up Where You Been were de facto solo records, as Mascis recorded everything himself. Unsurprisingly, for his first solo performance, his setlist draws heavily from both albums. (That set was released after the band’s breakup as captured on J Mascis Live At CBGB’s: The First Acoustic Show.)
And indeed it does sound like his first acoustic show; Mascis sounds oddly nervous and tentative. Normally that might work against a musician, but considering J’s vocal style, the nervous energy adds something to his renditions of “Get Me” and “What Else Is New” and “Not The Same,” and it’s impossible to deny the charm. He throws in covers of The Wipers and Lynyrd Skynyrd, as well as two fine versions of “Quest” and “Repulsion” from the first Dinosaur Jr album.
1995’s Martin & Me would be the first J Mascis solo release. Recorded on a low-key solo acoustic tour, the setlist copies that of the CBGB’s show. From the get-go, one can tell Mascis’s confidence is a thousand times higher this time around. He’s playful in his interactions with his audience, and the songs—especially “Get Me” and “Blowin’ It”—resonate nicely. He throws in two superb covers as well: The Smiths’ “The Boy With A Thorn In His Side” and Carly Simon’s “Anticipation,” both fitting perfectly alongside his originals.
The Copenhagen performance, at the end of Dinosaur Jr’s run, show that he’s on top of this solo acoustic thing. Well, mostly—he has some troubles remembering the songs. That doesn’t stop him from giving his best. When he does mess up, he finds a way to make it funny. Once again, the setlist isn’t very different from before—he throws in a nice take on “Little Fury Things,” which is quite enjoyable. But what’s really revealing here is the audience; they’re singing along with him on a few songs. Perhaps that is what throws him off.
The lack of variety in the setlist might initially seem disappointing. Don’t let that bother you, though. Fed Up And Feeling Strange documents a musician growing comfortable in his own skin as a solo act. More than that, Fed Up And Feeling Strange offers a nice, fun listening experience.
Purchase J Mascis Fed Up And Feeling Strange: Live And In Person 1993-1998: Cherry Red