Heavy Blanket: Moon Is

Good things take time. After teasing us with a self-titled EP in 2012, a live album in 2013, and a collab album with San Diego band Earthless in 2014, Heavy Blanket, the instrumental psych rock band Dinosaur Jr. frontman J Mascis formed way back in 1984 with his high school pals Johnny Pancake and Pete Cougar, have at last released their first full-length studio album. The record is titled Moon Is, and it was worth the wait.

It may be hard to believe, but not everyone is a fan of J Mascis’ creaky, strained, world-weary singing voice. Those same folks, however, would have a hard time arguing against Mascis being one of the best living rock guitarists on the planet. For those folks, as well as anyone else who can’t get enough of J’s iconic riffage and unparalleled shredding, get ready, because the six songs on Moon Is are going to liquify your brain in the best way possible.

“Danny” opens the album with a catchy three chord hook that repeats while upbeat jazzy drums keep time and Mascis’ lead guitar cries and flies all around the moment, sounding at times very Santana-esque. Heavy Blanket dive headfirst into metal territory on “Crushed”, a track that starts out sounding like Paranoid-era Sabbath then halfway in downshifts into a glam-inspired solo before rounding back to its dark origins. The record’s title track is also its centerpiece. “Moon Is” is a moody moment that finds Mascis’ guitar following a thoughtful bassline over steady drums.

The eight-minute “String Along” kicks off side B, and it’s a stoner rock epic. Built on a mid-tempo march, the track’s hypnotic climbing and falling chord structure acts as a wave for Mascis to surf. The song is a guitar solo lover’s wet dream as J’s lead work first doubles and then triples in the last minute-and-a-half as he solos over himself soloing over himself. “Eyevoid” brings back the heaviness and it’s here the percussion goes absolutely off the chain, sounding gloriously unrestrained.

The album is completed with “Say It to You”. The song is the slowest on the record tempo-wise, and it has Mascis and company wringing every last bit of themselves out. It may have taken forty years for Heavy Blanket to drop a proper debut LP, but Moon Is delivers a more than satisfying helping of what the band does best. If you’re looking for new guitar-based psych rock, you’ll be hard-pressed to find something better than Heavy Blanket’s Moon Is.

Rating: 9.0/10

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