On Martin and Me, J Mascis sings terribly, plays sloppily, showcases no new material, and covers the horrible, atavistic Lynard Skynard. This album is so much fun! Actually, the guitar playing wasn't that bad. One music magazine reviewer (I forget which, I read too many, plus this album came out in 1996) compared his guitar playing to that of a man with webbed hands. Which was accurate enough, but it seemed to these ears that his muddy strumming was a fledgling attempt at using the guitar as a percussive instrument in the absence of one, something that can be heard in the guitar-and-voice songs of folk blues players like Greg Brown, for instance. Whether or not he succeeded is a matter for another branch of the court, but he wasn't suffering from frostbite or anything. He has a great solo on "Drawerings," too. Mascis' solos are always great though, almost like novels in that they have rising action, climax, and conflict resolution. There's no excuse for singing this bad, though, other than it's a goddamn hoot. I'd rather listen to Mascis warble and creak through Morrisey's "Boy with the Thorn in His Side" then hear Celine Dion shatter all the wine glasses in Napa Valley on a radio tune. However, he does sing with a lot of passion. Let's cut him some slack, people. His cover of Carly Simon's "Anticipation" is both tender and touching. The best of his own tunes on this album include "So What Else is New" (from the terrific radio rock air guitar opus "Where You Been"), "Keeblin" (from their self-titled 1985 debut, if memory serves), and "Drawerings" (also from "Where You Been"). The worst is "Not You Again," an inexplicable interpretation of the expendable song from the mediocre "Whatever's Cool with Me." Mascis also deserves credit for having guts and a sense of humor. The album art depicts a long, brown haired nekkid women running toward flames and a certain crucifixion (well at least a cross, but work with me here, people). Certainly Mascis chose this artwork knowing he was doing the same with this collection. And he was right, receiving the only one-star review I ever remember seeing in Rolling Stone magazine. But nobody has ever claimed there's any geniuses at that publication. "Martin and Me" didn't deserve one star from a publication that warmly receives so much mediocrity. They could have given him two. Maybe they only have so many stars available, like there's a warehouse with them lying on the floor, and they need to horde them for their apologist reviews of their aged namesake band. I give Mascis four because he's fun, and this album's sloppy simple passion is almost punk in a way, from one of the first undergrounders to sign on the corporate dotted line. That said, one live acoustic album's enough, Mr. Mascis. Now get back in that studio and hire some backing vocalists. I'm sick of all the cats on my fence when I play this album.