September 6, 2005 at 7:34 am #48445
The show at the Milestone (recently re-opened) mentioned here is up on FreeSoFree.net
June, 1987: Summer in North Carolina has barely started and it’s already shaping up as one of the hottest and swampiest on record. One night, thanks to the confluence of climate and circumstance-the latter courtesy a thrifty Charlotte club owner whose notion of air-conditioning apparently means leaving the barÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s beer cooler cracked open-your future Harp correspondent and about 20 other underground rock fans are beginning to resemble steam-room attendants down at the local YMCA.
For the better portion of an hour, the three young post-hardcore moppets of MassachusettsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Dinosaur have shaken our nerves, rattled our brains and curdled our ear wax like some shotgun wedding of Blue Cheer, Husker Du, the Dream Syndicate and Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Yet despite the heat and frenzy, at the eye of the storm things remain implacably cool (bassist Lou Barlow even performs barefooted), a point brought home just before the final song, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Severed Lips.Ã¢â‚¬? As we withered-but-unbowed faithful few yell for an encore, guitarist J Mascis, who aside from his vocals has uttered nary a syllable all evening, steps to the microphone and, fixing us with the sort of gaze a scientist might direct at some mildly intriguing plant specimens, speaks.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“You guys are weird.Ã¢â‚¬?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I remember that show-the Milestone Club, right? Really physically hot, a primal kind of place,Ã¢â‚¬? says Lou Barlow now, reflecting on Dinosaur JrÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s first full U.S. tour. Barlow acknowledges that the groupÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s reputation as volume dealers preceded them, noting that both he and Mascis had cut their teeth in a hardcore punk band (Deep Wound), while drummer Murph brought a love of high-octane fusion to the table. Ã¢â‚¬Å“J kind of put it, Ã¢â‚¬ËœItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not cool unless itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s loud.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ Back home I think we probably harshed a lot of peopleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s mellow, but on that tour, Dinosaur was pretty much accepted with open arms everywhere we went.Ã¢â‚¬?
What occasions this conversation with Barlow and a separate one with Mascis is <a>Merge</a>Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ brace of Dinosaur reissues: 1985Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s Dinosaur, 1987Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re Living All Over Me (which would bring a name change, to Dinosaur Jr, after Ã¢â‚¬â„¢60s refugees the Dinosaurs complained) and 1988Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s Bug. In the trioÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s original, 1984Ã¢â‚¬â€œ89 incarnation Dinosaur Jr shaped both the Amerindie and overseas underground scenes as much as any group of the Ã¢â‚¬â„¢80s milieu, including friends/mentors Sonic Youth and the vastly overrated Pixies. In the process the band codified the light-to-heavy, pop-in-overdrive formula that Nirvana and its ilk would take to the bank a few years later.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“J almost single-handedly changed the face of guitar playing,Ã¢â‚¬? Barlow states unequivocably. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Clean to fucking crazy loud, so unbelievably distorted and [effects-laden] that it just caused these incredible psychedelic moments. My Bloody Valentine didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t sound anything like what we know them to sound like until after they saw us play in England. Even Sonic Youth started using a bunch of effects pedals.Ã¢â‚¬?
Mascis, typically, is noncommittal, offering a flat, Ã¢â‚¬Å“I dunno,Ã¢â‚¬? when posed the legacy question. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Our only goal,Ã¢â‚¬? he says, Ã¢â‚¬Å“was to get on <a>SST</a> [Records, which issued Dinosaur JrÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s second and third albums], and we didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have any further ambitions.Ã¢â‚¬?
Chuckling, Mascis adds, Ã¢â‚¬Å“When we got there it was like, Ã¢â‚¬ËœAll right, now what do we do?Ã¢â‚¬â„¢Ã¢â‚¬?
The Dinosaur Jr tale has been told often-most notoriously in Michael AzerradÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 2001 book <a>Our Band Could Be Your Life</a>. Chronicled alongside the groupÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s rise to the top of the indie heap is its torturous death-by-dysfunction, the increasingly acrimonious Barlow-Mascis relationship taking center stage in a soapy drama. Nowadays Mascis seems a bit peeved at the approach Azerrad took, although Barlow is only mildly embarrassed and reckons it was a fair account. Ã¢â‚¬Å“All the worst shit is in that book, some of the worst meltdowns, just so ugly and immature, tortured and awful. And-itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all true!Ã¢â‚¬?
Interestingly, though, both men appear to have made peace with the past-Barlow says seeing the story put down in black and white was therapeutic-and they have strikingly similar recollections as well. Mascis best sums up the bandÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s trajectory when he calls the three albums Ã¢â‚¬Å“kind of a trilogy. The first oneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the band starting; we recorded right when we formed and we were trying to figure out what we sounded like. The second one, we achieved our goal [of getting on <a>SST</a>] and weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d gotten our sound more together, too. The third oneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the band falling apart and it wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t much fun. Lou wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t contributing anything because Sebadoh had a record out by that point and he refused to bring any songs or even sing backup.Ã¢â‚¬?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The band was passionless by then,Ã¢â‚¬? agrees Barlow, Ã¢â‚¬Å“and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve only come to realize recently that I did actually take myself out of Dinosaur in a way. I just assumed J wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have wanted to play my songs. I failed to realize what I was bringing to the band and lapsed into this easy role of being the little martyr.Ã¢â‚¬? He adds that a curious thing also happened to the group in the wake of its success: Selling out big European venues and landing on the cover of magazines served only to fuel apathy in an already alienated combo. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We just fell into that perfect slacker thing of, Ã¢â‚¬ËœUh, I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t feel like it anymore. Why is everyone looking at us?Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ I think we were prematurely old men.Ã¢â‚¬?
If rock Ã¢â‚¬â„¢nÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ roll is a high school, then in the yearbook Barlow and Mascis would be listed as Ã¢â‚¬Å“least likely to play together again.Ã¢â‚¬? In July of Ã¢â‚¬â„¢89 Mascis and Murph informed Barlow that the band was breaking up, conveniently omitting the fact that they intended to resume operations without him. When Barlow discovered the truth he tracked the pair down Ã¢â‚¬Å“and I just read them the riot act: Ã¢â‚¬ËœYou guys fucking suck!Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ I carried that grudge for a long time and resorted to the most small-minded revenge tactics. I sued J, wrote songs about him, shit-talked him any opportunity I got.Ã¢â‚¬? Mascis would continue to front Dinosaur Jr for four more albums and later form the Fog, while Barlow would lick his wounds and earn acclaim helming Sebadoh and the Folk Implosion.
Yet play together is precisely what they did on April 30 of last year at a benefit concert featuring Sebadoh, Mascis and Sonic Youth. Upon learning that their two former Deep Wound bandmembers were on hand, Barlow and Mascis mounted an impromptu, one-song Deep Wound reunion. (Ã¢â‚¬Å“It was awesome!Ã¢â‚¬? enthuses Barlow. Ã¢â‚¬Å“It was no biggie,Ã¢â‚¬? deadpans Mascis, confirming that there was no awkwardness between the two.)
That, plus news of the reissues, has fueled the inevitable Dinosaur Jr reunion rumors. Mascis only goes as far as saying, somewhat cautiously, Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s still up in the air. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a lot of extraneous factors.Ã¢â‚¬?
Barlow, though, discloses that he and Mascis have been e-mailing each other about the matter. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Someone had told me that J went, Ã¢â‚¬ËœIÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d consider it.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ And Murph is into it. So then IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m like, Ã¢â‚¬ËœHuh! Okay, that would be kind of fun to play those songs again now.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ J was such a huge influence on me, just working with someone who was writing such great songs. I realize I was in that band for a reason-I really learned a lot from him and it empowered me to do my own stuff.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“You know, last year I saw Mission of Burma, the Contortions and the Stooges and [those reunions] were great. They made me think, Ã¢â‚¬ËœWell, if it turns out that Dinosaur does a few shows together, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all right.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢Ã¢â‚¬?
Dinosaur Jr (<a>Merge</a>, 2005).
Original Dinosaur LP (Homestead, 1985) plus bonus tracks Ã¢â‚¬Å“Bulbs Of PassionÃ¢â‚¬? and Ã¢â‚¬Å“Does It FloatÃ¢â‚¬? (live).
YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re Living All Over Me (<a>Merge</a>, 2005).
Original LP (<a>SST</a>, 1987) plus Ã¢â‚¬Å“Just Like HeavenÃ¢â‚¬? and videos for Ã¢â‚¬Å“Little Fury ThingsÃ¢â‚¬? and Ã¢â‚¬Å“Just Like Heaven.Ã¢â‚¬?
Bug (<a>Merge</a>, 2005).
Original LP (<a>SST</a>, 1988) plus Ã¢â‚¬Å“Keep The GloveÃ¢â‚¬? and videos for Ã¢â‚¬Å“Freak SceneÃ¢â‚¬? and Ã¢â‚¬Å“No Bones.Ã¢â‚¬? Remastered from original analog tapes; new liner notes by Byron Coley and Allison Anders.
As J Mascis personally oversaw the remastering and selection of bonus material, Harp had a few anomaly-related questions. Among them: Why does Ã¢â‚¬Å“Bulbs of Passion,Ã¢â‚¬? originally a B-side not on the original vinyl edition of Dinosaur, now open the album? And why was a cover of Peter FramptonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ã¢â‚¬Å“Show Me the Way,Ã¢â‚¬? a bonus track on the old <a>SST</a> CD of YLAOM, dropped in favor of the CureÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ã¢â‚¬Å“Just Like Heaven,Ã¢â‚¬? recorded by the band not during the YLAOM sessions but some time after Bug?
Explains Mascis, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Ã¢â‚¬ËœBulbsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ was kind of our ultimate song at the time. It seemed like the first time we arrived at some sort of sound that we were really psyched about. So it just sounds better now [as the first track].Ã¢â‚¬? Regarding the covers, Mascis says he simply didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want the Frampton tune included, and that the Cure song, despite its later vintage, seemed to sync up sonically with YLAOM because it was recorded in the same studio where most of that album was done.
We also couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t help noticing that advance artwork for the reissues consistently places a period at the end of Ã¢â‚¬Å“Dinosaur JrÃ¢â‚¬? (e.g., Ã¢â‚¬Å“Jr.Ã¢â‚¬?)-yet the original releases didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have the punctuation mark. Mascis confirms that the bandÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s intention when it appended the Ã¢â‚¬Å“JrÃ¢â‚¬? back in 1987 was to omit the period. Ã¢â‚¬Å“But I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t care. I do care about my name, though-I hate it when someone writes Ã¢â‚¬ËœJ-period-MascisÃ¢â‚¬â„¢!Ã¢â‚¬?September 6, 2005 at 8:59 am #112530
**the vastly overrated Pixies**
Thank you, sir. More people need to come to grips with that assessment.
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