Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dinosaur Jr @The Trocadero 9/4/07

I'm a little late in posting this review. I still can't get over how great it was to watch J Mascis play guitar live. Opening act Dr. Dog was pretty good too, very reminiscent of the Talking Heads with more pop influence.

Here are some reviews of the show from various publications.

The Big Takeover

The first time I saw DINOSAUR JR play, it was several years ago when they first reunited. It was like witnessing a miracle. No one expected them to reunite, especially in light of the tension between J MASCIS and LOU BARLOW during their initial late ‘80s run. Playing a venue that holds no more than 300 people in Northampton, MA (spitting distance from their home base in Amherst, where they initially started in the early ‘80s), they played all the old classics fans wanted to hear, at a volume loud enough to compete with jet engines (or with LED ZEPPELIN and THE WHO in the ‘70s, for that matter).

Several years later, it was a different scenario, but just as satisfying. Having released their surprisingly stellar new album Beyond (their first with this lineup since 1988’s Bug) back in May, they now had more songs to choose from. Consequently, we didn’t get as many old ones as I would’ve liked, but with new material as strong as “This is What I Came to Do” and Barlow’s “Back to Your Heart”, this wasn’t as big of a loss as it could’ve been. In fact, I was looking forward to hearing the Beyond material played live and it didn’t disappoint. Of course, the set wasn’t devoid of the late ‘80s material that inspired the band to get back together in the first place. For instance, they opened with “Gargoyle” (from their excellent and severely underrated debut album), played “In a Jar” early in the set, and later hit upon such career peaks as “Freak Scene” and their iconic cover of THE CURE’s “Just Like Heaven”. Another thing that was different this time around, however, was the inclusion of material from the ‘90s. During this time, they were signed to Warner Brothers and J held on to the Dinosaur Jr name and along with drummer MURPH and a series of bassists, made several fine records (particularly 1991’s excellent Green Mind). “Feel the Pain,” from 1994’s Without a Sound and the closest thing they ever had to a hit, felt like a natural addition to the set, especially since it was played much rawer and a bit faster than the recorded version. “Chunks,” a cover of a song by LAST RIGHTS (a short-lived early ‘80s Boston hardcore band that would eventually go on to become SLAPSHOT), closed out the evening in a raucous fashion. Ideally, I would’ve liked to hear a few more songs off of their first album as well as Bug, and I was surprised that they didn’t play “Almost Ready” or “It’s Me” from Beyond, but what they did play was stellar, so I can’t complain too much.

Openers DR. DOG warmed the crowd up nicely for the headliners, though their brand of BEATLES (particularly Abbey Road)-inspired psych-pop is extremely different stylistically from Dinosaur Jr. Nevertheless, they do have one thing in common with the headliners in that they’re both bands affiliated more or less with the indie-rock tag, but who owe a considerable amount to classic rock artists as well. Thus, on that level, the pairing made sense.

It should also be mentioned that in an unusual move, this show was promoted by Camel cigarettes. Thus, we were able to get free tickets, as were many other members of the audience. Therefore, while it was officially “sold out,” I suspect that the turnout would’ve been considerably smaller had it not been for the free tickets, especially given that THE NATIONAL and PETER, BJORN AND JOHN were also playing in different venues on the same night. Regardless, this meant that a full-to-capacity crowd was treated to a physically draining, inspiring volume assault. While I’m pleasantly surprised that Dinosaur Jr have been able to hold it together long enough to make an album, given their history, I eagerly await their next album and tour.

Philadelphia Inquirer

Dinosaur Jr. at Troc: Post-punk nostalgia
By Jonathan Valania
For The Inquirer

Perhaps the first sign you are "getting on" is the startling realization that, despite your vehement protestations to the contrary, you are quite simply not immune to nostalgia.

While the nostalgia of preceding generations may have been sepia-toned, Rockwellian tableaus or the Brylcreemed cheeseburgers in paradise of American Graffiti, these days nostalgia looks like a long-haired dude in a ski cap and a droopy metal T worn semi-ironically, a la Seattle 1991. Such is the vibe of Dinosaur Jr.'s comeback album and tour, which touched down at the Trocadero Tuesday night, sponsored by Camel.

The tour boasts the original, seminal lineup of guitarist-singer J. Mascis, bassist/madman Lou Barlow, and drummer Murph. Back in the '90s, Dinosaur Jr.'s calling card was a unique hybrid of ungodly loud post-punk American rock music: Think acid-washed classic rock writ messy, ecstatic, and louder than bombs.

That hybrid was a direct result of the original lineup's unique chemistry - J. Mascis' stoner-dude ski-bum laissez-faire vocals and hair-wagging guitar heroics; Barlow's thwarted-nerd-going-postal bass playing (not to mention the odd lo-fi psych-folk gem he contributed per album, which contrasted nicely with Mascis' Hammer of the Gods shred-and-whine); and Murph, well, he just always beat the drums like they owed him money. Lots of it.

Like an avalanche
They all still got it: Mascis may be gray as a mule, but he can still play a guitar solo that sounds like an avalanche coming down the mountain; Barlow, who left Dinosaur Jr. after the third album and went on to become the Nick Drake of Grunge, played Tuesday night like he was in dire need of an exorcism, summoning vast and bitter reservoirs of teen angst with method-actor aplomb.

Much like Dinosaur's career in the '90s, the new album Beyond starts out impressively but overstays its welcome. That was not the case Tuesday, when the band turned in a tight, hour-plus primer in Dino 101: the sludgy, doom-struck pop tones of "Little Fury Things," the blazing wah-wah metallica and tack-sharp hairpin turns of "Kracked" and "Sludgefeast."

Unfortunately, "Freak Scene," the band's breakout college radio anthem, was rushed and blurry. The song's crucial moment - when the band stops wailing on a dime and Mascis sings in heartbreakingly earnest fashion, "When I need a friend it's still you," and the instruments kick back in for a truly hellacious outro - was sadly anticlimactic.

Dearth of charisma
As a front man, the notoriously inscrutable Mascis still has all the charisma of that raisin he used to sing about on "In a Jar," the one sitting on his windowsill that said "please don't tap me on the head."

Dinosaur Jr. arguably blew it the day in 1991 that Mascis - then in the midst of one of his mute periods - refused to utter a word to Gina Arnold, the magazine writer who was following the band around on tour in hopes of writing a cover story. In frustration she turned her attention on the other band in the stinky van: Nirvana.

Here's hoping that local-boys-making-good Dr. Dog, who opened the show, don't repeat the mistakes of the past. Because, while it's too soon to tell if history will remember them as merely the sons of Blind Melon or park them in the same hallowed ground reserved for masters of bearded, bleary-eyed Americana - think the Band at the height of its powers - the fact remains, despite atrocious tastes in sunglasses, these guys are onto something. Something good.

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