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    Dinosaur Jr.
    Koko – London, UK
    Filter Grade: 90%
    by Jonathan Falcone

    Dinosaur Jr. were one of those confrontational bands, like Sonic Youth and Suicide before them (or in alliance with) they played their music with no real concern for their audience. Dinosaur Jr. would unleash walls of noise that often had the crowd running for the exit, but for those who braved the immense volume, a world of feedback-bathed beauty was offered, J Mascis would croon with melodic self pityingly and shy heartache, the sonic contrast was a totally new approach to song-writing and the very notion of song-writing itself.

    So this celebratory gig has Dinosaur Jr. playing their revered second album You’re Living All Over Me in its entirety, which instantly throws up some issues. Firstly, it’s completely predictable – which is in some ways comforting – yet Dinosaur Jr.’s back catalogue is so strong that to focus on one album seems a shame. Two, with the flurry of bands reforming these days, and Mascis and (bassist) Lou Barlow’s well documented dislike of each other, it’s enough of a surprise they’re sharing the same stage. This adds a sceptical excitement over the motives for such a gig, what will the stage dynamics be like and will they even survive the whole gig?

    They take the stage late, infuriatingly so. Mascis stands before three Marshall stacks and Barlow before two full bass amps, as "Little Furry Things" crashes in heavier than the enormous chandelier above us though, you’d believe nothing had ever changed from those early more enthusiastic days. The guitar is gloriously unbearable, Mascis’ greased silver locks shimmering in the stage lights; his voice is still haggard, dry and yet tender amidst the shredded treble frequencies and Barlow’s bass chords thump out unceasingly. As "Sludgefest" is unleashed and the riffs are struck with factory-line precision, you can see the timing is still there, immovable in its vast density, "The Lung" grants Mascis a solo, he bolts his head down, shaking from side to side evidently picking up on the psychedelic stratosphere Dinosaur Jr. so evidently exist within and channel into their music.

    To see this series of songs played is an immensely gratifying experience, a musical collection that can undeniably be termed ‘classic’. The purity of the melodies whimpering over the building blocks of noise is so directly channelled that even the recordings couldn’t accurately depict the power they display, "In A Jar" is unmatched in contrasting the brutality of punk music with the grace of pop music and the psychedelic propulsion of American radio rock. As Barlow finishes the set acoustically with ‘Poledo’ it’s as though we’ve witnessed the full extent of the storm Dinosaur Jr. always were.

    Then they come on and play further numbers off Bug and Dinosaur Jr with a noise solo mid encore, throwing expectations around… as they always have done and probably always will.



    J looks 1-legged in that photo ! The funny thing is the "you’d believe nothing had ever changed from those early more enthusiastic days" statement when the early days were usually anything but ! As Lou said, they actually had fun this tour. :)

    It was a great show. thanks for the review.



    Here’s another pleasing review of the Koko show…


    Dinosaur Jr, Koko, August 31 2005

    The idea of Don’t Look Back is clearly inspired. Take some of your favourite artists and get them to play one of your favourite albums all the way through. And what a great time to do it, with The Stooges reformed, Evan Dando using the Lemonheads moniker again and – unbelievably – Dinosuar Jr’s original line up back together.

    It’s difficult to convey what a revelation hearing ‘You’re Living All Over Me’ was back in 1987. Unlike anything around at the time, mainly because its creators cared little about the vagaries of what was considered cool and because they were so damn talented that they could take their influences and turn them into something amazing.

    Taking inspiration from everything from Oi! to The Birthday Party, what they most sounded like was a melding together of Black Sabbath heaviosity, punk energy and, in J Mascis’ reedy vocals, Neil Young at his most emotive. A trio barely out of their teens who had difficulty forming any kind of meaningful relationship with each other, let alone with the opposite sex, playing songs about trying to make a connection. What could have made for a painful experience turned out to be inspirational, kick starting grunge and shoegazing and leading to at least one stone cold classic album and two others dotted with masterpieces.

    Always the most unprepossessing of bands, seeing Dinosuar Jr take the stage tonight they still look like the awkward geeks of 18 years ago, albeit older. Drummer Murph looks like Harry Goldenblatt, bassist Lou Barlow resembles the bespectacled godfather of emo that he is while Mascis, with long grey hair halfway down his chest looks like Gandalf in a tie-dye t-shirt.

    As the wah-wah’d intro of ‘Litle Furry Things’ is forced through the air, those of a certain age are transported back almost two decades. The rhythms are a mix of the almost Neanderthal and the nearly motorik on ‘Sludgefeast’, with Murph pounding away and Barlow’s bass sound the dirtiest this side of Sonic Youth. But it’s Mascis’ who is the centre of attention. His fragile voice and the beautiful melodies juxtaposed with the most dynamic guitar playing you’ll hear. From woozy psychedelic jangling to jet engine soaring, big muffed fuzz, and string bending squeals – often all in the same song. It’s a stunning display of virtuosity, but what makes its use on songs like ‘The Lung’ so special is how remarkably free of ego it all is. You feel like every note, string bend and effects pedal is needed to make the songs complete. The solo at the end of ‘Raisins’ is as close to transcendental as you’re likely to get in Camden on a Wednesday night, and as uplifting as a gospel choir singing ‘Amazing Grace’.

    With the album done, they return for an encore that includes slacker uberanthem ‘Freak Scene’ and the shimmering brilliance of their version of The Cure’s ‘Just Like Heaven’. Rapturously received and (like the Pixies playing across town at Ally Pally tonight) this is another reminder that music pre-Nirvana wasn’t all plastic pop, Madchester and hair metal.

    Nick Peters

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