January 21, 2010 at 3:22 pm #51381
jeremiahKeymasterQuote:Dinosaur Jr.: Melodic noise that bristles
By MARK LEPAGE, Special to The GazetteJanuary 21, 2010
Sometimes, there is justice: a band originally called Dinosaur would never have added that perfect "Jr." had another perfectly named band – The Dinosaurs – not sued them for infringement. Said Dinosaurs included former members of Country Joe and the Fish, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Hot Tuna, the Grateful Dead and Moby Grape. Laugh among yourselves.
Indie rock had, in the Pixies and Dinosaur Jr., at least two bands devoted to reclaiming a progressive, aggressive guitar sound – with J. Mascis ripping through solos that sounded the way screen-savers look: sudden eruptions of multicoloured freakout guitar racing to the edges of distortion, only to implode back into the hard core of the song, unashamedly channeling punk credentials and some metal affection into bristling and melodic noise.
Now we have Dinosaur Jr. v2.0, and it’s bracing to hear – and attempt to explain – the undiminished ferocity of Farm, one of the best rock albums of 2009. How? "Well, it’s the same people and we learned how to play and have a certain sound or energy together," says Mascis.
Then lessons were learned from the past?
"Uhhh, yes and no. Lessons learned? Mistakes repeated, anyway."
He doesn’t do many interviews. Reached at his Massachusetts home, the Mascis voice offstage is not unlike the mike’d one, a weary groan that can trail off into its own kind of low-key distortion. "I think we’ve played a lot more gigs now than when werumphagnghh …"
Once you’ve coaxed or prodded that groan, though, Mascis can be quite opinionated and piquant. Many have leaned toward calling Farm perhaps the best album in the Dino catalogue.
"Probably not," he says. It was, however, "more tense to make" because of the severe recording deadline they were up against, making "people freak out more."
This is, after all, a band that had previously freaked out. Mascis is likely correct in stating that Dinosaur Jr. v2.0 has racked up more gigs than the original version. They formed sometime around 1984, were praised by Sonic Youth, delivered the brilliant title You’re Living All Over Me, and essentially became
DinoMascis in 1989 when Mascis apparently informed bassist Lou Barlow that he was breaking up the band… only to reform it once Barlow was out of earshot (moving on to forge his own indie legacy with initial side project Sebadoh).
Everyone’s happy now though, as any who caught the fierce comeback set of a barely reunited Dino at Osheaga in 2006 can attest.
We chat briefly about why indie rock doesn’t ‘rock’ right now. Mascis doesn’t know either, but DNA tells no lies. A flubbed question about Johnny Ramone’s influence on the band’s sound (Barlow, not Mascis) leads into some revealing words on the importance of your prehistoric ancestors.
"I always gravitated toward playing lead on guitar, and Johnny Ramone is the ultimate speed guy. And I always found it hard to play barre chords, and he’s kind of the king of barre chords. …
"And I always thought it was weird, his attitude was like, ‘Oh yeah, I hate playing guitar, it’s just a job. I just clock in, I don’t even have a guitar at home.’ I always thought that was really odd. I guess it’s cool in a way, but I didn’t know he glorified (the fact) he didn’t like playing that much."
Because you like playing.
"Yeah. I guess (Ramone) had baseball to be into, but I don’t have that many other interests.
"I guess I have four guitar influences. I was into Ron Asheton and Greg Sage from the Wipers, and Mick Taylor and Keith Richards."
Has he ever met the Stones?
Which, endearingly, is not a question you hear a lot from an interview subject. There follows a discussion of how Mick is pretty much all business and the Keith myth is no act. "Mick Jagger is definitely a vocal
influence on me, though. I always liked the fake-country twang – thought it was funny, that, like, the English guy. …"
The other main vocal inspiration was John Fogerty of Creedence (and not, as many have assumed, Neil Young – although Mascis will concede that his probably sounds closer to Young). And as for The Who, "I always found it hard to get past Roger Daltrey. I liked the rest of them."
Pace the legends, Dinosaur Jr. close out a third decade with an album as convincing as the ones that made their rep. They are legends themselves. Indie legends, thundering over the Earth…
Maybe. As he heads out on another leg of this tour, Mascis isn’t entirely convinced – at least, not in status terms.
"Yeah, that’s hard to… I guess maybe if we were bigger. I guess since we still have to play to make money and exist, it’s harder to feel like a legend.
"I mean, I think we’re bigger than we ever thought we’d be. I don’t think we ever considered that we could be like the Stones or something. We wanted to tour the circuit that Black Flag and the Meat Puppets and the Minutemen were doing. That was our goal, and we kind of achieved it, to be on SST (record label) and stuff. And I guess we had no other ultimate goals."
"I think of legends kicking back (laughter) in their mansions, not having to do anything." Kicking back with the volume at 11.January 22, 2010 at 10:42 am #137261
Well if any band were to make a reunion and have it be a success I’m glad its Dinosaur. It’s not hard for me to understand though. J has been making good music all along….ALL ALONG. So why would it surprise anyone that J leading a band would turn out so good. I guess the real question comes in regarding Lou, his songs are good too. I hope they keep touring and come out with yet another album. If the songs are there put ’em out! If not just wait until they come!January 22, 2010 at 11:35 am #137262
It’s just become a lazy journalistic cliche, which is then picked up and repeated in blogs, that’s J’s post-Lou — and especially post-Dino — work was weak, and that he’s only recovered his mojo with the Dino reunion. Most people who repeat that line have probably never even heard The Fog records, as seems clear when you read that Beyond picks up where Bug, or maybe Green Mind, left off. When it reality, it picks up where Free So Free left off.
Farm, however, could only have been written and recorded with Lou and Murph.
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