In the ongoing wave of unplugging by rock performers, some of the most unlikely prospects for acoustic success have yielded the most interesting results.
Initially, the idea of Dinosaur Jr. main man J Mascis' performing acoustic interpretations of his thorny, feedback-scorched pop seems absurd--all but his tamest tunes seem too unruly to survive unamplified. But Mascis' acoustic set at McCabe's on Sunday proved the music could not only survive but thrive.
In lieu of loudness and pedal effects, Mascis' guitar attack swerved maniacally from delicate picking to percussive pounding, furious flurries of strumming and soaring solos, sometimes within the space of a single song. Mascis' vocals also took on new dynamics. His craggy croaking assumed an almost fragile quality at times, while his intermittent nasal whine became a kind of hillbilly catch in his throat.
An added plus was Mascis' elusive, wry sense of humor, which came to the fore in comic flourishes tossed into the tunes, mumbled one-liners and an earnest rendering of Carly Simon's "Anticipation."
It's one thing to be a one-man band in the studio, as Mascis has been, but it was even more impressive to find he can accomplish the same sonic intrigue unplugged and on stage.
\o7 * J Mascis plays Thursday at the Troubadour, 9081 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, 8 p.m. $10. (310) 276-6168.\f7