I don’t need to introduce J Mascis do I? You know, Dinosaur Jr, one of the greatest guitarists of all time, etc.? Yeah, I thought so. As the voice and lead guitarist in one of the most iconic, influential and long-lasting alternative rock bands of all time, it’s really a formality to go over who J Mascis is. What Do We Do Now is Mascis’ fifth solo studio album since 1996, demonstrating a fittingly lax routine of solo releases. By nature of being written without his Dinosaur Jr bandmates in mind, J is free to let his songwriting wander and find new avenues.

It’s partly because of that last point that What Do We Do Now can occasionally sound a bit uncanny valley. It sounds like Dinosaur Jr, but also doesn’t. That’s J Mascis’ voice, and his leads, but it isn’t quite Dinosaur Jr. That’s not a negative, either, because the material here is thoroughly solid, but for someone who listens to a good amount of Dinosaur Jr, it took a minute or so to get used to. If this was supposed to be a Dinosaur Jr album, it would be, but it isn’t, so accept that now and move on with an open mind. As soon as you’ve wrapped your head around that, there are some real treats here. ‘Right Behind You’, for one, has a euphoric guitar solo that soars above the track in its second half – a song that already had a great hook, making it an immediate standout on the record.

Making a more laid-back record than a band that can be described as ‘slacker rock’ is no easy feat, but Mascis manages it here. Not that this record is comatose, far from it, but he’s definitely in a lower gear. The acoustic guitar-forward songwriting that uses the unmistakable leads as seasoning lends itself to a feeling of taking the day at your own pace. It’s no surprise finding out this album came together towards the end of the pandemic – coming out of a period where days bled into each other and time began to blur, that feeling is baked into the foundation of the songs here.

There’s a little more room to breathe in this context. It’s near impossible to judge a J Mascis solo album without thinking of Dinosaur Jr, and believe me I’m really trying to, but everything feels more intentional here. The dynamics of the band often mean that a guitar solo can feel like a release, they build up under the skin before bursting out with a rush of relief. Here, they lift the song to new heights, shooting off from the ground to explore the outer limits of the album’s sonic palette. What’s better, or more rewarding, is a matter of preference. What Do We Do Now isn’t trying to be anything it isn’t, so don’t make it. Taken as it is, What Do We Do Now is J Mascis offering a little change of pace alongside a decently solid run of albums from the band. I’ll never complain at more J Mascis to listen to, and even if it doesn’t feel like it’ll be as enduring as some of J and the band’s other career highlights, sitting with these 10 new songs is blissful.

J Mascis: What Do We Do Now – Out 2nd February 2024 (Sub Pop)

Mascis – Right Behind You (Official Video) (youtube.com)