August 14, 2005 at 10:56 am #48339
Hell, meet snowball
The original Dinosaur Jr. is back together. The apocalypse can’t be far behind
BY JEFF INMAN
In rock, there are extra-shitty ways to fire people. Say, Van Halen reuniting with David Lee Roth and forgetting to tell Sammy Hagar. Frank Black’s infamous canning of the rest of the Pixies by fax. Metallica’s bus ticket dismissal of Dave Mustaine. Van Halen’s re-firing of Roth after only two weeks, two songs and one ludicrous MTV Music Awards appearance. Being Pete Best.
Nothing, however, ranks worse than how Dinosaur Jr. fired bassist Lou Barlow . The band had been fighting for most of 1988 — or at least Barlow and frontman J Mascis had. They refused to talk to each other most of the time. When they did, they used drummer Murph as a middleman. Toward the end he was literally delivering messages back and forth between the two like some human answering machine. ("Murph, tell J he smells like elephant ass." "Murph, tell Lou he should lick a light socket.")
Things got worse when, during a show, Mascis hit Barlow with a guitar — something Barlow has, maybe rightly, admitted having revenge fantasies about. Finally, Mascis and Murph told Barlow they had had enough. They wanted to break up the band. Barlow agreed. The two, of course, neglected to tell Lou that they were going to reform the band the next day with a new bass player, Mike Johnson. Mascis and Murph let MTV News handle that part. And even though Barlow did plenty well for himself — Sebadoh, The Folk Implosion, etc. — he still stewed for years, even blowing up at Mascis several times in public.
So when it was announced earlier this year that the original Dinosaur Jr. lineup would be reuniting and hitting the road, a few longtime fans probably had an aneurysm. Lou’s hatred of Mascis was one of those things you could count on, like death, taxes and Courtney Love crazy-talk. To suddenly see the two not only sharing the stage, but palling around like old buddies is almost as disconcerting as Jude Law starting a nanny service. Today, the group’s having breakfast in a small dinner in North Hampton. While Murph is on the phone gabbing, Mascis and Barlow are giggling like seventh-graders in the background.
"This would have been so atypical back in the old days," Murph says with a giggle of his own. "But now this happens all the time. I’m still a little surprised this whole tour is even happening. There are certain situations where it doesn’t seem real. But it’s cool now."
Getting to that spot wasn’t easy, though. While none of the three have talked publicly about healing those old wounds — we’re guessing there had to be either massive amounts of therapy, cash, or both involved — it couldn’t have been easy. Barlow was still slagging Mascis in interviews as little as a couple years ago. Murph hadn’t talked to anyone since Mascis formally ended Dino after 1997s Hand It Over. And J had another band, The Fog.
But the trio had a legacy that was hard to ignore. While other late ’80s alternative acts were either graduating to the mainstream (R.E.M., The Pixies) or getting ready to implode (The Replacements, HÃƒÂ¼sker DÃƒÂ¼), Dinosaur Jr. was busy deconstructing hardcore, retooling it with some classic Neil Young, and creating the primordial sludge pool for grunge. The three albums the original line-up released — 1985’s Dinosaur, 1987’s You’re Living All Over Me, and 1988’s Bug — were like being assaulted. Mascis’ thick guitar hit like a mugger with a brick, while his nasal whine left your ears feeling pierced. Behind him Barlow and Murph beat out rhythms that owed as much to Black Flag and The Minutemen as they did early ’70s rock. It was like nothing else before it — a maze of aggression, noise and ever-increasing levels of skill. By ’91 it was obvious that every kid in Seattle had at least one Dino disc in their collection.
"That was the thing for me," Murph says. "It was all good for me even when it wasn’t working. The music was so good that, even if it was painful, I wanted to work with them. It was just great."
Which is why it’s not surprising that Dino’s reunion tour has been a summer smash. Playing only material from those first three discs — "That’s totally out of respect for Lou," Murph says — the band has spent more time worrying about meticulously recreating the feel of Dino’s early shows, right down to the cheek-flapping volume, than writing new songs or learning old ones. In fact, the band is so focused on the past, Murph says there are absolutely no plans for the future.
"There’s always that fear that if we did something else it would be like Aerosmith," Murph says. "They did that reunion tour, which was awesome, and then they started making albums that just sucked. We don’t want to do that. Things are good. Why even mess with it?"
Dinosaur Jr. (with Alaska!, The Omens)
House of Blues (inside Mandalay Bay)
3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S.August 14, 2005 at 3:30 pm #112033
I went to the show last night at HOB. They played a lot from the first record. Only 2 selections from Bug. The set list was:
In A Jar
Does it Float
Bulbs of Passion
Just Like Heaven
Forget The Swan
Little Fury Things
(order may have been slightly different)
They were sick from the long trip from Norway but Lou was fairly talkative on stage. He said J was real sick. J seemed really drained. I enjoyed the show even though I was disappointed that it only about 75 or 80 minutes. Songs from their 1st record were the highlight since I had never heard some of them in the 5 times I’ve seen them.August 14, 2005 at 5:48 pm #112034
as seasoned performers w/Ã‚ tried and true management why did they do this tour w/ shows all over the world booked so close together?
were they afraid if they didnt something would blow up in their face?
sAugust 15, 2005 at 7:07 am #112035
I’m glad they had the day off after Vegas. I hope they are feeling in top shape by the 20th, can’t wait!
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