What Do We Do Now

Sub Pop
rating icon 9 / 10

Track listing:

01. Can’t Believe We’re Here
02. What Do We Do Now
03. Right Behind You
04. You Don’t Understand Me
05. I Can’t Find You
06. Old Friends
07. It’s True
08. Set Me Down
09. Hangin Out
10. End Is Gettin Shaky

With so many of our seminal grunge frontmen gone too soon, the remaining stars from the genre have taken on more importance. J MASCIS is one of them. Whether you consider DINOSAUR JR. "pure" grunge or not is beside the point: they were an influential alternative '80s band. Mascis remains a treasure when it comes to the formative years of alternative, grunge and experimental music, and he continues to break new ground.

His fifth solo album, "What Do We Do Now" (Sub Pop) is actually his first to feature full drum and electric leads, laced in with acoustic rhythm parts. The mix of electric and acoustic sounds is rich and unique, and it certainly makes for an interesting record. The album also features guest musicians in Ken Mauri of THE B-52's on keys and Ontario-based polymath Matthew "Doc" Dunn on steel guitar.

"What Do We Do Now" launches with the warm, melodic "Can’t Believe We're Here", an upbeat-sounding jangle-pop number that could fit alongside GIN BLOSSOMS and BETTER THAN EZERA in a playlist. Listening, it's hard not to bob your head along with the quippy beat and singalong chorus.

Those warm tunes and upbeat vibes continue throughout the release. Tracks such as "Right Behind You" and "Old Friends" are fleshed out with raw guitars and edgy pop-rock sounds, somehow making this release sound like a just-right fit between '80s college rock and '90s alternative. The slower-paced "You Don't Understand Me" defies its negative song title, with a dominant pop melody and breezy, comforting sonics. Elsewhere, "Set Me Down" recalls classic COUNTING CROWS with a folk-rock vibe, strong hook and pleasant, memorable melody lines. Album closer, "End is Shaky" is a real highlight, with a bluesy undertone. Here, we find slippery guitar soloing and Mascis's haunting, raw vocal delivery.

While DINOSAUR JR.'s music was always fairly niche and outside the mainstream, this solo album shows a different side — one that isn't afraid of pop-infused melodies and tuneful choruses. What's more, the organic production is a perfect fit for the music and Mascis's sound. From hearty ballads to upbeat pop-rock numbers, the album's tracks are compelling and inviting, both musically and lyrically. "What Do We Do Now" might not answer the question, "What do we do now?" But, it presents a musical masterpiece of a journey along the way.

Author: Anne Erickson
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