Friday, January 02, 2015

J Mascis and my life soundtrack (#2)

For as long as I can remember back into my teenage years, I was someone who never really fit in.

I was a big-bodied kid, and fairly chubby for a good chunk of my adolescence. I had some growth spurts, and sporty periods, but I was lucky enough to never be ostracized. I had enough of a sociable disposition to always be able to get along with many different groups of people, and I used humour and smiles as much as I could - those were two of my greatest weapons of youth. But I definitely spent a lot of time away from school traveling to different universes within my mind - and most of those were contained within my headphones. In fact, I can only remember going to maybe one high school dance in my whole life. High school was definitely not my bag.

But it wasn't until I left the socially charged, macho-bravado strata of Sir Robert Borden in 1993, and entered the strange forest of Bell High School that I began to see the world in a different light. Bell, a 20 minute walk away and on a semester system, was a new beginning - and though I never ascended any ranks of popularity, jock-dom or prom kingship there, I began to understand something among those pale-yellow lockered halls.

I remember spotting these eye-popping t-shirts at Bell that I had never seen before. In particular, Ted Wilson and Ryan Bresee (two nice fellas who I knew through a few classes) wore these purple shirts that had a band name that caught my eye - Dinosaur Jr. I immediately needed to know what this supposed young dinosaur was all about. When I bought Green Mind, I had never heard guitar work like that before. It was from another planet - it pierced, it stung, and it was formed from a distortion that seemed to scream out of the amp. And yet, at other times, Mascis was someone who showed an incredibly mellow, flower child side with acoustic-picky tunes that plodded along in meadows of reflection. Changing tempos, moving from pop-rock into a wild metal explosion - but never, ever, EVER forsaking melody - this was a sound that captivated me.

It was this wailing, weepy, ethereal, college-slob-thunder-rock music that helped my 17-year-old self start to see that I didn't have to fit into a circle - I just needed to be me. It is a rule I have fought for and sometimes struggled with, but it has made all the difference in my understanding of self. And although I've waxed and waned in my love for J and his many different projects over the years, he is someone who will always be thought of with a smile and a skyward thumbs up. In fact, 20-ish years later from those non-glory days, I just bought his latest solo record today, and he is still someone with a beautiful understanding of music - and he definitely does not fall into any category.

Thanks J. If you ever read this, I hope you feel like your music made a difference.

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