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J Mascis and The Fog

Without question, J Mascis was one of the most influential rock musicians of the '90s. Kurt Cobain begged him to be Nirvana's drummer long before Dave Grohl ever came on the scene, but J was busy masterminding Dinosaur Jr. at the time, and has remained the king of the rock guitar ever since.

The psych maelstrom known as Dinosaur Jr. started in 1984 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, when the band released their first album on Homestead Records after being discovered by Gerald Cosloy, who would soon co-found Matador Records. Then the band moved over to the quintessential indie label SST Records, which was run by a couple of members of Rickie Lee Jones and was home to such legends as The Minutemen, Husker Du, Bad Brains, Sonic Youth, and Soundgarden. Dinosaur Jr. quickly reached legendary status themselves after releasing two of the best rock records ever recorded, You're Living All over Me (1987) and Bug (1988). Those records' distinctive, twisted airplane-volume fuzz helped shape the '90s explosion of slacker and grunge rock throughout the world.

After the release of Bug, Dinosaur Jr.'s bass player left the band because he and J just couldn't get along. His name was Lou Barlow, and you might have heard of Sebadoh and The Folk Implosion, the bands he went on to start.

So J Mascis pretty much took over Dinosaur at this point, subsequently signing to a major label (Warner Brothers) and playing every instrument on the acclaimed EP The Wagon and the follow-up full-length Green Mind. Those releases helped thrust J's vision into the radar of the mainstream with beautifully arranged pop songs as well as the sonic ear killers. During the next few years, he released several more albums, which thrust him in to the MTV limelight and even earned him some big screen cameos. A rock icon had been born, but slowly his audience started to fizzle. People were too concerned with how amazing the old albums were instead of the great new songs and sounds J was producing, and so, by the late '90s, Dinosaur Jr. became extinct.

J has regrouped these days as J Mascis and The Fog. He recruited equally legendary noise-pop old schoolers Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine) and Robert Pollard (Guided by Voices) to lend a hand creating More Light, the 2000 debut album from J Mascis + the Fog. The album picks up right where the last Dinosaur Jr. record left off, but with a renewed vigor.

J is pretty much all there is to "The Fog" on the group's 2002 follow-up album Free So Free, but he seems to feel quite liberated judging by the lighthearted sound of the album, its title, and songs "Freedom," "Set Us Free," and "Free so Free." Live, Mike Watt (Minutemen, fIREHOSE) regularly joins The Fog to make their shows a classic post-punk evening -- just wear earplugs!