July 15, 2005 at 4:19 am #48188
Re-formed Dinosaur Jr. returns from rock ‘n’ roll extinction list
Friday, July 15, 2005
Special to The Plain Dealer
For a long time, a reunion of Dinosaur Jr.’s original lineup seemed as likely as finding a brontosaur walking up your street.
And while hell hasn’t necessarily frozen over, the band — guitarist J Mascis, bassist Lou Barlow and drummer Emmett Jefferson "Murph" Murphy III — is indeed back together, on the road and talking as if the deep animosities of the past are extinct.
"It’s almost like winning some sort of contest," says Barlow, 38, who was crudely kicked out of Dinosaur Jr. in 1990 and subsequently founded the bands Sebadoh and the Folk Implosion. "We kind of feel like survivors; you managed to be in Dinosaur and you’re not dead or totally crazy.
"And for me to actually step back into a situation where I’m playing with somebody [Mascis] who I had so publicly denounced and burned in effigy so many times, and to feel kind of needed, this is really unique. This is kind of cool."
Dinosaur Jr. was, in fact, the height of cool in the late 1980s, when it helped define the pre-Nirvana alternative rock movement — slacker division — with an edgy, noise-filled attack in which Mascis’ guitar acrobatics intertwined with Barlow’s thick, guitar-styled bass approach. The trio formed in 1984 in Amherst, Mass., recorded three albums and won massive critical acclaim. But all was not peaceful between the band members.
"J hated everybody back when I was in the band," Barlow recalls, "and he reserved a special kind of disgust for me ’cause I was a very needy person and I needed his validation."
And, Barlow says, his first run in Dinosaur Jr. ended in outright deceit. "They told me the band broke up," he says. "Then I found out they were going to Australia [on tour] the next day. I got in my car and hunted them down and screamed at them for three hours."
Barlow also notes that he "demonized" Mascis after that, in interviews and in songs. "He became this ghost to me, this horrible specter of my past," Barlow says. "He really scarred me."
Dinosaur Jr. lasted another four years and was part of the 1993 Lollapalooza lineup. Murphy left in 1994, and Mascis was largely a one-man band on the last Dinosaur Jr. album, "Without a Sound," released that same year.
Barlow’s relationship with the guitarist began thawing in subsequent years, with Mascis showing up at Sebadoh gigs and mutual friends encouraging the two to at least develop some civil discourse. But it took Barlow’s mom to really bring them back together.
She was organizing a benefit for a resource center for families with autistic children where she works in Massachusetts. She asked both Barlow and Mascis to play, then asked them to play together. They wound up re-forming their previous band – A Deep Wound – for that show, and the result was "a lot of softening of the ground between us," according to Barlow.
After a few more meetings and discussions, the two tracked down Murphy earlier this year and decided to bring Dinosaur Jr. back to life. A pair of shows were scheduled for London in June, and as they had in the band’s original days, Barlow and Murphy got together to practice parts, with Mascis joining them a couple of days later.
Now, fans want to know, what’s next? Like their ’90s counterparts the Pixies, Dinosaur Jr. is circumspect about its future. The obvious question is whether the band will record again, but Barlow is adamant that "there are no thoughts about that."
"We don’t even think we know when touring’s ending, really," he says. "There’s a lot of places we could go before we really call the reunion tour over and consider doing something else."
"So anytime an interview brings [the future] up when we’re together, we just scoff. We’re like, ‘What are you talking about? Jesus, isn’t this enough?’ "
Graff is a free-lance writer in Beverly Hills, Mich.
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