December 3, 2005 at 1:33 pm #48602
Old wounds healed, indie-rock pioneers Dinosaur Jr. rise again
Thursday, December 01, 2005
By Scott Mervis, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Brilliant as he is with a guitar and a mike, J Mascis will never go down in the books as one of rock’s great communicators. The most that interviewers generally get from the frontman for Dinosaur Jr. is a nearly unintelligible mumble.
So it’s no surprise that bassist Lou Barlow didn’t get much of a send-off from the boss back in 1989. Barlow was simply told the band was breaking up. Shortly after, he learned that Dinosaur Jr. was touring Australia — which is close, but really not the same thing.
Barlow did what anyone would do — he showed up at one of the gigs (not in Australia) and screamed at Mascis and drummer Patrick "Murph" Murphy for about an hour.
Then, Barlow went off and pursued various shades of indie-rock, quite successfully, as the frontman for Sebadoh and the Folk Explosion.
Earlier this year, with Dinosaur Jr. in the tar pit, the 39-year-old Barlow was approached about a reunion and realized that after more than 15 years, maybe the wounds had healed.
"Enough time had passed, and I had seen J a few times where it was all right," Barlow says. "I kind of took some steps to bridge the gap a little bit. I apologized for yelling at him a couple times. He just kind of seemed like, ‘OK, whatever.’ We had a couple friends in common so there were forces pushing us together, and we thought, ‘People are going to go to these shows if we play, so we might as well do it.’ "
Dinosaur Jr. started playing reunion shows in the spring, focusing on the three records Mascis, Barlow and Murph all played on.
The other night, Barlow says, "we did one song that I was not on, ‘The Wagon,’ which was the first single that they did after they kicked me out of the band. That’s our big step forward. I was into it. I always liked that song. Back in the day I was very disappointed in how good that record was. I wanted them to flounder after I left, but it didn’t turn out that way."
No, after Barlow left, the major rock mags seized upon Dinosaur Jr. as some kind of hard-edged "slacker rock" phenomenon, pushing sales of the band’s major label debut, "Green Mind."
By then, Dino Jr. had evolved into something far more accessible than the hardcore band Mascis and Barlow had started back in high school in Amherst, Mass.
"We started with a hardcore band called Deep Wound, and it became Dinosaur as our music taste started to broaden when we were in our junior and senior years of high school. We came out of the hardcore punk scene, we sort of took the baton from bands like Minor Threat and Black Flag and, to some extent, the Minutemen. We were kind of like the next generation of kids who were influenced by underground American music. The underground scene has always been really incredible. We inherited the influence and the audience in a way."
Dinosaur debuted on Homestead Records in 1984 and later added the Jr. because of a conflict with a band called the Dinosaurs. The band’s <a>SST</a> debut, "You’re Living All Over Me," recently reissued, was a brilliant explosion of indie-rock that seemed to combine the noise and fury of Sonic Youth with the weary tunefulness of Neil Young. With the next album, "Bug," they had an indie hit on their hands with the song "Freak Scene."
But the dynamic in the band was just as volatile as the sound.
"It was just dysfunctional," Barlow says. "J was a bit of a sadist and I was a bit of a masochist. We were just young and nihilistic, I’d say. I was kicked out before we were even, like, reviewed in Rolling Stone."
After Barlow left, Mascis played most of the instruments himself on "Green Mind" and brought on Mike Johnson for touring. Meanwhile they all watched as the underground scene they had nurtured along with bands like the Husker Du and the Pixies was overtaken by the MTV breakthrough of Nirvana.
"I wasn’t really a Nirvana fan before ‘Nevermind’ because I didn’t really like their music very much," Barlow says. "I thought they were this junior-league Melvins rip-off, but with ‘Nevermind,’ I was like, ‘Oh my God, the songs are huge, these are great songs.’ "
Mascis toured with Lollapalooza and made three more records, including the excellent "Where You Been," before putting Dinosaur Jr. aside for a solo career in the mid ’90s.
When the three members returned to the material earlier this spring, they had fresh ears and a new appreciation for what they had done.
"We’re faithful to what we did before," Barlow says. "I just think now my ear is much more sophisticated and my playing, I don’t get up there and play a bunch of extra notes with it, but my feel and my touch is way better. I can grasp the songs more. The songs, they’re just amazingly crafted, and to go back to that, it’s like sinking my teeth into this juicy steak. The music is really meaty and there’s a lot going on in the songs, and every time I play, I just really get into them."
Off the stage, the old tensions have fallen by the wayside and Barlow can actually envision Dinosaur Jr. going beyond just the reunion shows and being a fully functional band again. Will it happen?
"I don’t really know," he says. "It’s just really up to J. I’m pretty into it. I’m into it however it evolves. If we don’t tour much beyond now I’m cool. But if we take some steps into doing something further, I’ll do it."December 3, 2005 at 7:58 pm #113298
Bucky RamoneParticipantQuote:The other night, Barlow says, "we did one song that I was not on, ‘The Wagon,’ which was the first single that they did after they kicked me out of the band. That’s our big step forward. I was into it. I always liked that song. Back in the day I was very disappointed in how good that record was. I wanted them to flounder after I left, but it didn’t turn out that way."
…nice find CG….December 7, 2005 at 1:34 pm #113299
AnthonyParticipant"Coma Girl " wrote:"I don’t really know," he says. "It’s just really up to J. I’m pretty into it. I’m into it however it evolves. If we don’t tour much beyond now I’m cool. But if we take some steps into doing something further, I’ll do it."
man, Lou Barlow really puts the Dinosaur r in Dinosaur Jr. I hope they hang around and put out something.
i wouldn’t mind J touring with the Fog just to practice for playing with lou and murph.December 7, 2005 at 2:54 pm #113300
yeah im looking forward to some fog shows, some more lou solo shows… HOPEfully a sebadoh reunion tour, but ill take every bit of dinosaur they throw at me
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