The artist page for Dinosaur Jr. axeman J Mascis‘ new side project offers up a somewhat incredulous origin story involving the guitarist forming Heavy Blanket with high school friends who smoked weed out of a tuba. The songs on the record were allegedly written in 1984, but brain damage to one member and another’s incarceration for counterfeiting low-denomination bills prevented them from ever being recorded.
These six completely instrumental tracks are largely Mascis’ frantic, distorted guitar solos over lurching bass and plodding drums. The already-released Dr. Marten’s Blues is a good indicator of what you can expect from the whole album. Whether the story about their formation is true or not, the record does sound like a collection of songs a gifted guitarist like Mascis might have composed in high school. The songs have little to no melody, serving just as a nonstop display of manic fretwork skills, like a geeky rocker kid trying to impress a pretty classmate at a gymnasium talent show. We already know Mascis is a great guitarist, but we also know he’s a great songwriter; this mishmash of tracks feels like stoned improvisations that don’t show that at all.
Whether Heavy Blanket bandmates Johnny Pancake and Pete Cougar are real people, pseudonyms for other players, or even Mascis himselfwho played the bulk of the instruments on several Dinosaur Jr. releasesis up in the air. Sure, the blistering solos are impressive but not more so than what you’d hear from his other projects. If you’re looking for a psych-throwback disc, there’s a great new Ty Segall & White Fence record; those in the mood for endless, druggy instrumental rock should wait for Sleep’s Dopesmoker reissue. This is more exhausting, if anything, making Heavy Blanket only worth seeking out for the Mascis diehards.
Essential Tracks: Dr. Marten’s Blues