Heavy Blanket – Moon Is (Outer Battery) Album Review

Heavy Blanket, a J Mascis side project has released their 3rd album, Moon Is, inspiring our man Jeff Neems to write these words about it.

When it comes to rock’n’roll and rowdy electric guitars, J Mascis is my guy. The Dinosaur Jr frontman and guitar virtuoso’s work has fascinated me since I was first exposed to 1991’s Green Mind by a thoughtful friend.

Mascis, who still resides in his home town of Amherst Massachusetts, has always “spoken to me” with his combination of soaring and ear-splitting guitars and the mournful reflective lyrics. and at last count I had more than 40 records, CDs and DVDs featuring his work or a production credit.
Heavy Blanket is a sporadic Mascis side-project with only five releases, Moon Is being the third album (yes, I have the other two. including a truly ferocious live recording with Earthless).

Aside from Mascis, the line-up includes drummer Pete Cougar, bassist Johnny Pancake, guitarist Chunky Stump, keyboardist Sleazy Crisp plus bit-part contributors Dave Sweetapple (bass) and Graham Clise (guitar). Those may be pseudonyms, but what is crucial to know is Cougar and Pancake first played alongside Mascis in 1984.

Heavy BlanketWhile the unfamiliar punter could be forgiven for thinking Heavy Blanket is basically Dinosaur Jr by another name, for the frothers amongst us who worship Mascis as a god, there’s a very big difference.
Heavy Blanket is hard, fast, heavy – and instrumental. Yep, that’s right: no wailing plaintive Mascis vocals, just walls of Mascis guitar shredding laid over grinding psychedelic rock rhythms which will piss off your neighbours when you turn it up loud. It’s tinged with Black Sabbath, The Stooges, hammered into place with an chunk of Led Zep, and then rinsed again under a shower of Neil Young and Crazy Horse.
This music is full-on, balls-out  instrumental stoner rock on a grand and mind-bending scale.

On Moon Is you get the aforementioned Heavy Blanket recipe, cooked to perfection across five tracks. For Mascis tragics like myself, this is like being invited to the best bar in town with an endless tab and a world-class bar-tender catering to every tiny taste preference you have. You just get to gorge yourself.

On Say It To You, there’s even the tiniest hint of a vocal to tease – but otherwise it feels like it’s Mascis and his pals just jamming in the studio, hitting “record” and going all out to see what happens. There’s probably a lot more to it than that, but that’s what it feels like on first listen.
To be fair, Mascis and this sort of psychedelic “amps up to 11” guitar-driven heroics is an acquired taste. I generally only play Heavy Blanket when I have the house to myself, such is the sheer power of the music at times. It hits you quite hard and you sort of have to steel yourself for it in advance.
So if you’re a Mascis/Dinosaur Jr fan you’ll want to hear this – it takes the familiar sound to a new and exciting level. Followers of edgier rock should also explore Moon Is, with five tracks being a perfect helping. People who don’t like anything loud should keep well clear.
Not to be missed, and not to be messed with. Available in coloured vinyl for the physical format collectors.
Jeff Neems

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