The news came in today that Jack Kevorkian had died. After being sick for some time, Dr. Death, as he was nicknamed, recently fell considerably more ill and finally succumbed to the complications of pneumonia and old age. He, better than most people, understood that death comes and that there's a way to get to it quicker than just waiting for it. He insisted, for over 20 years, that he provided a service to those whose quality of life was nothing like they wanted it to be, suffering through chronic and only worsening diseases. One of Kevorkian's attorneys spoke on National Public Radio today and addressed a point that most people thought to be a hypocritical one in terms of the man and what he believed. He never took his own life, even when he knew that he was only getting closer to the end. He never took his own life, even when his health tumbled off the edge and became something of an ugly blotch, a fragment of the poor thing that it used to be - suddenly a grotesque failure of its former self. He never took his own life, the attorney reasoned, because everyone meets death in a different and personal way. Some people greet it with an extended hand and others let it find them, wherever they're hiding because no matter their condition, they like it here and they're going to hang around as long as they possibly can.
J. Mascis, famously known as the lead singer and guitarist for the Massachusetts group Dinosaur Jr., is a man we think would go ahead and let the end find him, wherever he is. Though he sings about loneliness and despair the way that someone would sing about a lover, he also seems to have a lot at stake down here still. Wanting to be alone is different than wanting to be dead. He simply seeks the peace of mind, that quiet that has a friend up in his head with all of the buzzing that must be the hum that puts him to sleep at night - those different shades of distortion that come to him like Mr. Sandman.
Mascis' new solo album, "Several Shades of Why," is an ode to the glory of finding that place where you don't have to bother with the cumbrances of other people's fuck-ups and notions, where you're the only one who can say what's going to be done with your time. He cherishes his ability to just lock himself away in a room, without another soul around, and just be there with his solitude. It is him. It's his dream place. Or his pipe dream place. He sings about the universal temporariness of everything - how nothing sticks around and that's okay. The theme of solitary passions and lives is continual throughout the album and yet, Mascis rarely sounds bummed about what he's made for himself. "Alone," a song that could be the cornerstone for this collection of sleepy, but loud songs, comes to us as a beautiful examination of what he needs out of life. It's not much. He could probably eat the same thing every day, where the same tee-shirt, go to the same places, see or not see the same people and if the pattern and the ritual were there - if he was able to retreat back to where he knows will be as non-crowded as he left it - he could stay like that forever. He could remain a man who enjoys his morning coffee and whatever else happens that day. He could live as long as the fates and the mutating cells will allow. He will let death come for him. He sings on Edie Brickell's "Circle," "I quit/I give up/Nothing's good enough for anybody else/It seems/Being alone's the best way to be/When I'm by myself, it's the best way to be," and it's kind of hard to disagree with the guy.