June 30, 2009 at 10:39 am #51125
jeremiahKeymasterQuote:Timeline: Dinosaur Jr
By Cam Lindsay
The members of Dinosaur Jr were never meant to survive more than an introduction, let alone five albums and a budding reunion. It wasn’t easy, as they’ve always had the odds working against them. For instance, their frontman is a laconic individual who sings in a drone like a banshee lost on Quaaludes, has a reputation for bursting into solos that would exhaust Joe Satriani and likes it loud… no, louder than that. They also have two of the most celebrated songwriters of their generation — but it wasn’t until after they disbanded that anyone recognized it. Nope, J Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph were polar opposites that should never have gelled, and depending on who you ask, never really have gelled the way healthy bands do. But over the course of their time together (nine years) and apart (16 years), the trio have managed to build a history that has made them icons of their generation and one of the most respected indie/alternative bands of the last quarter century. Most importantly, however, through Dinosaur Jr, Sebadoh, and the billions of other projects they’ve involved themselves with, this trio have given us a glut of music to obsess over, and have been a gateway into scenes like lo-fi and of course, indie rock (which Lou famously craved in 1991). Their new album, Farm, proves once again that Dino Jr still defy the odds, as they’ve released arguably their best since 1987’s milestone, You’re Living All Over Me. Quite an achievement from a band whose leader once stated the band kept going because "I knew I didn’t want to get a job, that was always motivating to me."
1965 to 1984
Joseph "J" Mascis Jr. born in Amherst, MA on December 10, 1965 to a dentist and a homemaker, who were "really uptight and not very affectionate," he would tell Michael Azzerad, author of Our Band Could Be Your Life. "I was a weird kid. It made people uncomfortable sometimes." J, as he will be called forever more, goes to school with Uma Thurman. He gets a reputation for being dazed and quiet, but the devout straight edge teen later tells Azzerad, "Everyone always thought I was stoned ever since I can’t remember. Didn’t talk that much. Perma-stoned." J starts taking guitar lessons in grade five, but switches to drums to play in school’s jazz band. Early on he becomes obsessed with music and begins listening to everything from the Beach Boys to Deep Purple to Neil Young to the Rolling Stones, who become a favourite. He soon discovers hardcore and listens to nothing but. Louis Knox Barlow is born in Dayton, OH on July 17, 1966, but grows up in Jackson, MI. His family moves to Westfield, MA when he is 12. Lou struggles to socialize and finds comfort in music; he hears Dead Kennedys on college radio and gets hooked, neglecting school and everything else. He begins playing guitar. Lou meets Scott Helland at Westfield High and the two start jamming together in the Lou’s attic. They post an ad at a local record store that reads: "Drummer wanted to play really fast. Influences: Black Flag, Minor Threat." J responds and his dad drives him to Westfield to audition. Barlow tells Azzerad, "He had this crazy haircut. He’d cut pieces of hair out of his head — there were bald spots in his hair. He had dandruff and he had sleepy stuff in his eyes. Everything ‘sucked,’ which was, like amazing. I was like, ‘Oh my god, he’s too cool!’" Mascis brings along friend Charlie Nakajima and the four christen their band Deep Wound. (J’s mom knits him a sweater with the band’s name soaking in a blood puddle.) The band begin playing small shows around the state and get mentioned in zines; they release an EP on Radiobeat Records, which local writer Steve Albini calls "between really cool inventive hardball and generic thrashola garbage." Mascis takes over the guitar and songwriting duties on top of drumming, in order to make it "hooky." They also release two songs on a compilation called Bands That Could Be God, released by Conflict zine publisher Gerard Cosloy, future co-founder of Matador Records. Cosloy befriends J, who now has "huge fuckin’ hair… like stick-your finger-in-the-socket-type hair," Cosloy tells Azzerad. Cosloy becomes Deep Wound’s manager. Mascis and Barlow begin to lose interest in the hardcore sound and expand their horizons. They break up Deep Wound in the summer, but Cosloy tells J that if he ever wants to release a record, he can do so on his Homestead label. J keeps writing music, and establishing a unique guitar technique heavy on guitar solos by incorporating all of his influences: the Beach Boys, Black Sabbath, CCR, Neil Young, the Cure, and "something just clicked with him… it was a totally genius little idea," Barlow tells Azzerad. Years later J describes his motive to OMH, "It seemed so wimpy at first when I started to play [guitar]. So I started playing loud with lots of effects just to try to mimic the dynamic [of the drums]. Drums seemed a lot more expressive. Trying to emulate the feeling of playing the drums on the guitar – I guess that’s why I played it so loud." Playing guitar, J invites Lou on bass, Nakajima on vocals and his "hippie punk" drummer friend Emmett Jefferson "Patrick" Murphy III from All White Jury to join his new band, which he describes as "ear-bleeding country," inspired by a recent fondness for country music. They call the band Mogo, after a romance novel owned by Mrs. Mascis, and play their first gig a couple months after the demise of Deep Wound. Nakajima launches into an anti-cop rant, which disgusts J; the next day he breaks up the band, but later calls back Murph and Lou to start a trio with him, instead of just firing Nakajima. He tells Azzerad, "Communicating with people has been a constant problem in the band." They name the band Dinosaur.
1985 to 1987
Dinosaur take Cosloy up on his offer and record an album for $500 at a home studio located in the woods of Northampton, MA. All of the songs are written and some are sung by J, but Lou handles most of the lead vocals. They release their self-titled debut album on Homestead, an ambitious debut but also messy, suffering most from the band struggling to decide on their sound. A schizophrenic combination of influences (noise, goth, hardcore, country rock, metal and garage) finds the band jumping styles song after song, making for some disorienting, sloppy results. "Repulsion," however, is still one of their best songs to date. "We just kinda formed and made the record. That was weird. We didn’t really have a sound and couldn’t play that well, really," J later tells Uncut. The album only sells 1,500 copies in its first year, largely because of its limited release and because a lot of critics think the album is a joke. Cosloy tells Azzerad, "There were people who literally laughed at me." The band begin travelling to New York City and catch the ear of their heroes, Sonic Youth. Though at first they aren’t impressed by Dinosaur, Sonic Youth learn to appreciate the volume at which they perform and soon become fans. "It was just a wash of noise that made your teeth hurt. But in a good way," Thurston Moore once said. The two bands tour together in the U.S. in September 1986. While they aren’t spending time together, Murph delivers pizzas, Lou works as a caregiver for elderly ladies in resting homes and J attends college. Lou begins writing his own music on the side as a reaction to J’s dominance; much more introspective and acoustic, he dubs it Sebadoh, a meaningless word he finds himself mumbling. "I didn’t want it to be electric, I wanted to play it acoustic," Lou tells CDC in 1992. "Cause I played electric all the time and I went on tour and just played really loud all the time. Dinosaur didn’t ever exactly lend itself to any sort of sensitive handling so I never ventured to bring anything that I wanted to play quiet." Lou begins recording songs at home with drummer Eric Gaffney, and they release a cassette titled Weed Forestin’ on Cosloy’s Homestead Records. Dinosaur use their connections with Sonic Youth and hire their engineer, Wharton Tiers, to record the next album in New York, where J is now residing. Tensions mount in the studio between J and Murph over recording the drum parts. "J controlled Murph’s every drumbeat… And Murph could not handle that," Barlow tells Azzerad. "Murph wanted to kill J for the longest time." Though Cosloy is excited about the album, Mascis decides to release it on SST, the label he wanted to be on since he was 15; Cosloy sees the snub as betrayal. The deal J strikes with SST sees that only he receives royalty cheques from album sales. You’re Living All Over Me is released in December 1987 and becomes the band’s landmark album. Featuring Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo on backing vocals, the record is a remarkable second effort, revealing a band that have defeated their identity crisis and established themselves as something unique, with a sound built on thunderous blasts of noise converging with melody and distortion. Released in limited quantities with a cassette copy of Sebadoh’s Weed Forestin’, it quickly gains the attention their debut failed to and establishes them as an indie rock favourite. J tells Uncut in 2000, "You’re Living All Over Me is the peak of the original idea of the band and what we were trying to do. Our only goal was to be on SST and then we got on SST and put out the album. So that’s kind of the apex of it." Lou’s contribution, "Poledo," hints there’s something more to his songwriting; it even scores him a girlfriend, Kathleen Billus, a college radio music director who eventually becomes his long-time muse and wife. Tensions begin to run high within the band. After a show in Phoenix, Murph takes driving responsibilities for the overnight ride. The band members claim Murph purposely fell asleep and ran the van off the road as a result of "experimenting with extrasensory driving techniques," though Murph denies the story to this day. Murph tells Azzerad, "If [J] saw somebody socially having fun or doing something that he wasn’t able to do, he would probably try to put a damper on you and just bum you out… so they would see you in a more negative light. That was the major part of it, J being such a control freak and just not letting up." Adds Barlow, "I started to see his songs as probably his only noble act as a human being." J runs into some trouble during the band’s first trip to Europe and learns hard about the UK tabloids. He tells Underground: "I was charged with possession of drugs in Germany, ’cause I had a bottle of fuckin’ migraine tablets that contained something like a fraction of a percentage of amphetamine. It was reported in the NME." A band called the Dinosaurs (featuring members of Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead) sues Dinosaur over their name; instead of fighting it, J adds "Jr" (no period) onto the end.
1988 to 1990
Dinosaur Jr release a new single called "Freak Scene," and it becomes an instant hit on college radio and in the UK, reaching #4 on the independent singles charts. Their third album Bug, recorded at Fort Apache in Cambridge, MA, is released by SST; it reaches #1 on the independent album chart and spends 38 weeks on the chart. J later tells Mojo, "I interviewed Ozzy once and I’m a big fan of [Black Sabbath’s 1975 album] Sabotage, but he has the same kind of feeling about it as I have about Bug. It just brings back all these bad memories of lawyers in the studios, and it just brings him right back there… just this miserable period." Though it’s cleaner, more influential (Pitchfork later describes one song as "a sound cut-rate shoegazers would milk for another six years at least") and contains the band’s greatest opus, "Freak Scene," Bug doesn’t quite live up to its mighty predecessor. The album is remembered mostly for the tension between band members, which is depicted in its finale, "Don’t," an abrasive slab of noise rock written by J. The song surprisingly features Lou singing the refrain of "Why, why don’t you like me?" which J later admits "was kind of twisted"; Lou screams it so aggressively that he coughs up blood afterwards. J makes an appearance providing vocals on a track called "Two Cool Rock Chicks Listening To Neu," by Sonic Youth’s side-project Ciccone Youth, as well as Buffalo Tom’s self-titled debut, which he also co-produces. Dinosaur Jr get another hit in the UK with a one-off single cover of the Cure’s "Just Like Heaven." Sebadoh release a split seven-inch with Big Stick through the Sonic Life fanzine. With tensions running high between J and Lou, once tour commitments are fulfilled for Bug, Lou is kicked out of the band. Instead of telling Lou he’s out, however, J says the group are breaking up; the following day, he "re-forms" Dinosaur Jr without Barlow. Lou hears about it from a friend and confronts J and Murph, yelling "You fucking assholes! I can’t believe you didn’t have the balls to tell me to my face! I have to find out on the street!" J will tell his side to Uncut, saying "Lou wasn’t really contributing much. He was sort of freaked out. He thought we’d ruin his songs or something. He put out the first Sebadoh record on Homestead and after that it was like the door was shut and he was doing shit just to try to fuck things up." Lou is replaced by queercore scenester Donna Dresch. After seeing a Nirvana gig at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, NJ, Kurt Cobain asks J to join his band as their drummer; J declines the offer. Having already put it on cassette the year before, Sebadoh release their first album proper, The Freed Man, on Homestead; the title is a reference to Smith College’s Friedman Complex apartments, where Barlow and Gaffney were living against regulations with their girlfriends. The album includes 31 songs and was recorded on four-track in a room abandoned by a student scared off by Satanist goths. Unlike Weed Forestin’, the record is their first true collaboration that Lou later admits was "intended to be a mess, a stinking garden of delights." Jason Lowenstein joins them on bass. Lou tells Skin Flute, "a third person definitely gave us the ability to play electrically. Electric with two people doesn’t really cut it." Sebadoh release a seven-inch called Asshole, which is reportedly named in honour of Mascis. "I got a lot of hatred out just by writing those songs," Barlow later tells Azzerad. Sebadoh also collects the first two albums and releases a compilation titled The Freed Weed. J has trouble recruiting a full-time bassist and replaces Dresch with Velvet Monkeys’ Don Fleming and Screaming Trees’ Van Connor. He keeps busy producing Buffalo Tom’s Birdbrain, providing backing vocals on Sonic Youth’s "My Friend Goo" and producing demos for their album Goo, recording with Velvet Monkeys and drumming on the debut Gobblehoof EP. Dinosaur Jr put out "The Wagon" as a single on Sub Pop and then sign with Sire Records’ Blanco y Negro imprint, home to the Jesus & Mary Chain.
1991 to 1992
Sebadoh begin plugging in their sound with much more electrically-driven songs. They release their genre-tagging Gimme Indie Rock! EP, followed by the seminal full-length Sebadoh III; the album introduces Loewenstein’s songwriting, which helps emphasize the three-way divide with the electric heavy personality of Gaffney, and the more acoustic-leaning Barlow. III will become one of the defining albums of the indie rock movement and establish Sebadoh as lo-fi gods. Lou later tells Prefix, "It’s a mess, which is what I thought back then. I love messy records. I still think my songs are among the best I’ve recorded." Just as they’re about to embark on a tour, Gaffney leaves the band; Lou and Jason continue on as a duo, but bring in Bob Fay to drum. Gaffney returns after the tour, but discovers the band’s direction has moved away from his music. Sebadoh release two more singles before the end of 1991. Dinosaur Jr release their major label debut, Green Mind, which is practically a J Mascis solo album. Released just months before grunge hit, the album marks a significant shift in the Dino Jr sound; the deafening distortion, heavy sludge and wall of noise is reduced and supplemented by acoustic guitars, a Mellotron, ballads and even more pronounced guitar solos. J tells Uncut, "Murph was really out of it at that period. It was weird so, yeah, I ended up doing most of it." Dinosaur Jr appear in the film 1991: The Year Punk Broke, a documentary starring Sonic Youth and Nirvana that follows the summer European festival season from the perspective of rising alternative bands. Mike Johnson of Snakepit joins J and Murph on bass, and during the tour, opening act Nirvana release their album Nevermind, which becomes the alternative movement’s essential album, a feat many expected Dino Jr to accomplish first. Sire releases a collection of Dinosaur Jr singles and B-sides called Whatever’s Cool With Me. Looking to satisfy his drumming urges, J fills in as drummer for Boston doom metallers Upsidedown Cross, which includes Seth Putnam of Anal Cunt; they release a self-titled album on Taang! Records. J also writes songs for Allison Anders’s film Gas, Food, Lodging, and makes a cameo appearance. J also plays bass on Jad Fair’s I Like It When You Smile. Sebadoh sign with Sub Pop after sending them a demo of Barlow’s songs, though Columbia shows interest. The band’s first release is a compilation called Smash Your Head On the Punk Rock, a compilation of the Rocking the Forest and Sebadoh vs. Helmet EPs they recorded with Fay and released earlier in 1992 on their new European label, Domino. Dinosaur Jr join the Jesus & Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine and Blur for the Rollercoaster tour, a UK leg of the Lollapalooza festival.
Dinosaur Jr enter the studio together and record Where You Been as a band, with full participation by both Murph and Johnson. The album fulfils the band’s commercial potential with a string of successful singles and a cleaner, yet grunge-friendly sound; it charts in the U.S. top 50 and the UK top ten, while single "Start Choppin’" is a top 20 UK hit. Spin puts Dinosaur Jr on the cover with the headline "J Mascis is God." Dinosaur Jr are added to the main stage bill for Lollapalooza. J tells Magnet, "[Lollapalooza] was the last straw for Murph; he was done after that one. It was like waking up every day in a summer camp that you really didn’t want to be a part of, and we were treated like kids in that it felt as though we were punished when we weren’t good." Sebadoh join Lollapalooza for some of the southwestern dates; "I was kind of afraid to deal with [Lou], because he was so angry every time I’d come across him," Murph later admits to the A.V. Club. Murph leaves the band and is replaced by George Berz, who played with Charles Nakajima in Gobblehoof. J remixes and adds vocals to the Breeders’ "Do You Love Me Now Jr?" from the Divine Hammer EP. Lou begins writing more introspective, acoustic music on his own under the name of Sentridoh; he releases a single "Losercore/Really Insane," which is the first release on Smells Like, the label founded by Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth. An EP, two albums and a compilation of Sentridoh material is released up until 2002. Lou also forms the Folk Implosion (a parody of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion) with John Davis and releases an album called Walk Through This World with the Folk Implosion. Sebadoh release their fifth album, Bubble & Scrape; it sells 10,000 copies in its first week, confirming the band’s weight in the indie rock scene. The album is recorded just after Lou is dumped by Kathleen, in a slaughterhouse with the help of Bob Weston. However, the mix is so bad that the band are forced to learn "about the vocabulary of the ‘professional’ recording world," writes Jason in the liner notes for Domino’s 2008 reissue. Writes Barlow, "I see Bubble and Scrape as a teaser for a much better record that never happened." Gaffney becomes divisive, demanding his share of the advances up front, refusing to play his songs live and selling his own Sebadoh T-shirts at shows. Lou and Jason kick him out of the band and replace him full-time with Bob Fay. "All these people had a really difficult time with that record, but I thought it was really great. I thought Eric [Gaffney]’s songs on it were … I thought his lyrics were pretty amazing… He really brought this whole other, this energy that I really don’t know if anyone else has really approached," Lou later tells journlist Michael Stutz. J produces albums for Tad (Inhaler) and fIREHOSE (Mr. Machinery Operator). J Mascis appears in Sassy as the "Dear Boy" columnist; to the question of "do boys like big butts?" he answers, "I am baffled by this question. Butts are so awesome that obviously, the bigger, the better. Any guy who’s not a weirdo will take as much butt as he can get. I don’t know if you are worried yours is too big or too small, but it can’t be too big. Whatever it is, get into it."
1994 to 1995
Dinosaur Jr release Without A Sound, the first album to not feature Murph on drums. The album does well thanks to Spike Jonze’s video for "Feel the Pain," which depicts a decked out J playing a round of golf in Manhattan. It peaks at #44 on the U.S. album chart and becomes their best-selling album to date, but mostly disappoints fans and critics. J confesses his songwriting suffered because of the effect his father’s death had on him at the time. J produces the Breeders’ Head to Toe EP and reportedly falls asleep at the console, which prompts Kim Deal to begin playing Sebadoh’s "The Freed Pig" as a joke to wake him up; the song ends up as one of the EP’s four songs. Jason steps up his songwriting duties and Sebadoh release Bakesale, which marks a shift in the band’s sound as they reduce the punk-infused noise of previous albums; the album reaches the top 40 in the UK. The album cover features a one-year-old Lou standing above a toilet. "The front cover, my mother took. That’s me when I was one year old (leaning over a toilet)." he tells Perfect Sound Forever. The Folk Implosion release their second album, titled Take A Look Inside. Sebadoh take 1995 off, the first year they don’t release an album. Instead, Lou works with John Davis on a soundtrack to Larry Clark’s controversial film, Kids. The Folk Implosion provide seven songs including "Natural One," which surprisingly becomes a big hit, peaking at #26 in the Billboard Hot 100. About the song’s success, Lou tells Deathrockstar, "For me there’s not much difference between sharing my songs with 10 people or 100,000. I’ve always cared what people thought but I can’t say I ever did anything to please them. Except for my mother." The success allows Davis to quit his job as a librarian. Barlow also appears with Sebadoh for one song, as well as with the Deluxx Folk Implosion, which features Davis, Bob Fay and Mark Peretta. London Records, which releases the soundtrack, tries to sign the Folk Implosion, but Barlow and Davis pass.
1996 to 1997
J releases his first solo album, Martin + Me. A collection of live recordings from a fall 1995 tour, the album features just J and his guitar (named Martin) running through some Dino Jr songs as well as some covers from the Smiths, Carly Simon, Lynyrd Skynard and the Wipers. It’s an introspective and somewhat enjoyable listen to music that was mostly masked by massive guitars. Murph joins the Lemonheads and plays drums on the album Car Button Cloth. The Deluxx Folk Implosion resurface to contribute a cover of "I’m Just A Bill" for the Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks compilation. Sebadoh release their sixth album, Harmacy. Recorded right after Bakesale, it sees Loewenstein usurping Barlow as the band’s most productive songwriting. Still, it’s Lou’s songs that are released as the singles. The photo on the album cover gives it the unique name. Lou tells journalist Michael Stutz, "We did a little tour of Ireland, and Jason took this picture of this totally rundown pharmacy from the van window… when we were looking for pictures for the album we chose three of his photographs for the album, and when we saw the pharmacy picture we’re like, ‘That’s it, that’s the fuckin’ title right there!’" Following the success of "Natural One," expectations for the album exceed sales and, despite commercial radio and video play for "Ocean" the band remain a commercial nonentity. Bob Fay is kicked out of the band and replaced by Russ Pollard. Lou tells Gutless, "He just wasn’t really dedicated to it. It was something that Jason and I had kind of suspected for awhile and something that Bob himself sort of admits to now." The Folk Implosion release Dare to be Surprised on the Communion label; although it’s full of straight, lo-fi pop songs, the album doesn’t capitalize on the previous success the duo found with the Kids soundtrack. J has a cameo in another Allison Anders film, Grace of My Heart; he also writes a song for the soundtrack, a Beach Boys-type number called "Take A Run At the Sun." Dinosaur Jr release Hand It Over, the final album for Sire/Blanco y Negro. The album receives mediocre reviews and despite guest spots from My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields and Bilinda Butcher and some interesting arrangements featuring strings and horns, it’s the first Dino Jr album to receive any fanfare. J later tells Mojo: "All the record companies are so jaded. I mean, bands are jaded to begin with, but record label people are even more jaded. It’s just really hard to hear some things. You know, like, "I don’t hear a single." I never thought I’d hear that. But then on the last Dinosaur album on a major label I finally heard that. I was like, "You’ve got to be kidding me!" Soon after, J retires the Dinosaur Jr name.
1998 to 2002
J begins showing up to Sebadoh shows. "[It] was kinda interesting, cos I never went to any of his shows at all," Lou later tells Popmatters. "We would talk a little bit. It was OK at first, but then he came to one show and we started talking and it got a little too intense for me and I just flipped out on him … and then he didn’t really come to any shows after that (laughs)!" In 1999, Sebadoh return after three years with their final album, The Sebadoh, which receives distribution from Sire. The major label assistance helps single "Flame" receive strong airplay, however, the album, now including Pollard on drums, isn’t a convincing effort. Gone is the irregularity of songwriting and coarse production, and instead Sebadoh sound like a proper, rehearsed band, which they never were. After touring, Sebadoh go on hiatus. Later in the year, Lou switches focus to the Folk Implosion; surprisingly they sign to Interscope in a bid to try and rekindle the flame of "Natural One." They release One Part Lullaby, a slicker, drum machine-driven record heavy on sampling and melody — in other words, the perfect companion for "Natural One." Unfortunately, the album doesn’t repeat their previous single’s success, but "Free to Go" gets heard in American Beauty and the title track appears in Adaptation. John Davis ends up leaving the Folk Implosion and after Russ Pollard and Imaad Wasif (Alaska!) join, Lou changes the name to the Foke Implojun and then New Folk Implosion. "We began writing songs together and soon we were a band far removed from what John Davis and I were after. Now that I’ve finally been dropped from Interscope and am no longer under contract to deliver a Folk Implosion record, there’s no need to carry on the name," he tells Pitchfork. The band appear in Laurel Canyon alongside Frances McDormand and Christian Bale as "a band of the Coldplay/Radiohead variety." After an inspirational trip to India, J reappears after three years with another project called J Mascis and the Fog. An album called More Light is released on Artemis featuring My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields again, as well as Guided By Voices front-man Robert Pollard. He tells Now Magazine, "People are calling this a classic J Mascis record. That’s nice, but I don’t really know what that means." Mike Watt starts playing bass for the Fog shows; he brings Ron Asheton into the fold and the three begin playing Stooges songs live together on a few occasions. Lou shows up to one of the gigs in London and is coaxed into singing "I Wanna Be Your Dog." J later tells the A.V. Club: "I asked Lou if he wanted to sing a song. And he was apologizing then for some of his past behaviours — that was the first time he seemed to have mellowed out a bit." Rhino issues a "Best of Dinosaur Jr" collection called Ear Bleeding Country, a career-spanning retrospective. J goes on tour with Cobra Verde to fill in on guitar after Derek DePrator leaves the band.
2003 to 2005
The New Folk Implosion is released via iMusic and Domino. The first album without Davis, the "new" band eschew the more beat-driven sound of One Part Lullaby and actually recall the earlier Folk Implosion recordings. It’s a pretty uninspired album, however, and the final record Barlow releases under that name. Nardwuar the Human Serviette interviews Lou and the Folk Implosion. Five years later he tells Plan B it is the weirdest interview experience, saying, "A guy in Vancouver, Nardwuar, interviewed the Folk Implosion for his TV show while eating a speciality sandwich that had three pounds of meat on it – sausage, hamburger, ham and cheese. He was sweating and visibly uncomfortable doing so." Nearing 2004, Barlow begins a series of reunions with three of his past bands. He joins Jason Loewenstein for an unofficial Sebadoh tour called Turbo Acoustic, he describes to Exclaim! as "a two man, non-electronic, not quite acoustic band. Not quite acoustic means Jason will be playing an electric bass guitar and I will be playing an acoustic guitar. The acoustic guitar will, of course, be plugged into an amp, so in a way, it will also be electric, but not." Then in April, both Sebadoh and J Mascis open up for Sonic Youth at Smith College in Northampton, MA. Instead of reuniting to play Dino Jr material, Charlie Nakajima and Scott Helland join Lou and J and the four have a one-song Deep Wound reunion. Lou releases his first ever solo album under his own name, titled Emoh; partially recorded at home (which the title reversibly acknowledges), the no-frills, stripped down album is arguably his most mature songwriting statement ever. "I have never deliberately chosen to make a solo album. Emoh I had cast myself as my bands were collapsed, I was abandoned," he tells File Under. J regains the masters to Dinosaur’s first three records and Merge Records remasters and reissues them in April 2005 with bonus tracks and liner notes by music writer Byron Coley and director Allison Anders. "[J has] been trying for years to release these first three albums for years," Murph says to Creem. "He was just going to re-release the CDs. We weren’t actually thinking of doing this, but we had so much interest from family and friends and promoters and fans and so many people overwhelmingly [who said] ‘If you’re going to put out the records you’ve got to do this together, you’ve got to do it as a package.’" The original Dinosaur Jr line-up officially reform. In an interview with the A.V. Club they discuss why. "I guess it was just up to me," J says. "I know the other guys wanted to do it. Yeah, it’s pretty surprising… I guess it was just up to [Lou] to mellow out a bit. Lou’s always expressed interest in a reunion, even when he’s screaming at me. He realized he had to take some of the blame for the past." Lou adds: "Well, J says it’s because I mellowed out; I think it’s because he mellowed out. [Laughs.] Because he was pretty much like a borderline sadist when I was in the band with him — he took great pleasure at other people’s pain." J forms a Sabbath-y stoner/doom metal/punk band called Witch with friend Dave Sweetapple and Kyle Thomas from Feathers; instead of vocals and guitar, J plays drums. Witch release two albums: 2006’s Witch and 2008’s Paralyzed. Mascis contributes vocals to two songs by Danish shoegazers Mew for their album And the Glass Handed Kites. British label Damaged Goods releases Discography LP, a Deep Wound retrospective featuring their 1982 demo, self-titled seven-inch and the tracks from Bands That Could Be God comp. In August, J releases a new solo album, J and Friends Sing and Chant For Amma, an album of devotional songs dedicated to friend and Hindu religious leader Ammachi; the proceeds go toward a Tsunami relief fund.
2006 to 2008
J Mascis performs at an Amma benefit show in Toronto called "Broken Mascis Scene," where he performs Dinosaur Jr selections backed by Broken Social Scene. Domino reissues Sebadoh’s seminal III as a remastered, deluxe two-disc set complete with bonus tracks and the Gimme Indie Rock! EP. The label follows that up with deluxe reissues of The Freed Man in 2007 and Bubble & Scrape in 2008. In March 2007, the "Sebadoh Classic" line-up of Barlow, Gaffney and Loewenstein reunited for the first time in 14 years and embark on a tour, which eventually finds them playing Bubble & Scrape in its entirety both at London’s Koko club and the Pitchfork Music Festival as part of All Tomorrow’s Parties’ Don’t Look Back series. Sebadoh release a limited edition, tour-only CD called Wade Through the Boggs, which collects live recordings, radio performances, alternate versions and unreleased songs. J adds guitar tracks to some of the Lemonheads’ self-titled comeback album, appears on Thurston Moore’s Trees Outside the Academy (which is recorded at J’s studio), plays guitar and sings back-up on Kevin Drew’s "Backed out on the …" and plays banjo on the Hold Steady’s "Both Crosses." Dinosaur Jr have all of their gear stolen mid-tour in Long Island City, NY. They post a message on their site that lists the stolen equipment and add, "Feel free to send this list to any and all band, tour and production managers, guitar freaks, touring personnel, venues, musicians and or thieves that you think could help us." Dinosaur Jr co-curate "United Sounds of ATP," an All Tomorrow’s Parties festival weekend in collaboration with the Shins and Sleater-Kinney. They begin working on their first studio album together since 1988’s Bug, and sign to Fat Possum. Beyond is released in May 2007 to glowing reviews and charts at a respectable #69 on Billboard’s Top 200. The album is the overdue return to form every fan has been waiting for, picking up right where Bug left off, brushing some dust off and polishing up their sound with the turbulent volumes and solo-heavy gust they made their name on. More than anything, though, Beyond demonstrates that reunions can also be triumphs and not just embarrassments. Proof that the band are serious about their commitment, Lou writes and sings on two of the songs. J makes an appearance at the North By Northeast festival as a celebrity interview. J enters the world of merchandising as in 2007 he releases the J Mascis Signature Jazzmaster Fender guitar; it comes in a "purple sparkle" finish and features a number of modifications J requested like a "tune-o-matic bridge," a reinforced tremolo arm, vintage style pickups, jumbo frets, and a satin finished neck and customised wiring. He also designs a pair of Dinosaur Jr Nike SB Dunks, telling Exclaim! "It’s pretty weird. I never thought I’d design a shoe for Nike. I wear them, they’re pretty cool. I think they are a success, for my first shoe designing outing. They look good on most people." He also appears on Adult Swim series Assy McGee providing the voice for a pet store employee in the episode "Squirrels."
J designs a personalized metallic purple Dinosaur Jr Toyota Yaris S Sedan with die-cut vinyl graphics of the band’s artwork for the Free YR Radio benefit tour; proceeds go towards the MA Center, which is affiliated with his friend, Amma. Dinosaur Jr sign to Jagjaguwar. J tells Mojo: "I like those guys. A lot of our reissues are on Merge and Fat Possum, which are also kind of indie. I never cared about major labels. I never even considered being on a major. Not that I didn’t want to be. I just never thought we’d sell enough records for it to be an issue. We’re just like puppets in a band; we want to tour and not work at McDonalds. What do you do when all our goals are realised? You’re just floating around…" On June 23, Dinosaur Jr release their fifth full-length together titled Farm, a stout declaration that they’re no longer a "reunion band" and the original line-up’s finest album since You’re Living All Over Me. Self-described as an "old school" record, Farm doesn’t find the trio building so much on Beyond, than using it as a springboard to get back into their late ’80s groove, where amp levels being ignored and hooks crashing in like waves were the only items on the agenda. "It has an urgency. Right away I knew it was superior to Beyond," Lou tells Spin. "We gave ourselves a time limit to try to get it out this year, so we had to work faster, so it was more stressful and intense trying to get it done. That was the main difference. But the sound as it came out was more together. You know, we still have a weird dynamic," J explains to Mojo. The video for single "Over It" stars J skateboarding with Lou and Murph BMXing throughout various American cities; J also stars in Alien Workshop’s Mind Field video playing the guitar and riding his skateboard. As for the future, J seems pretty optimistic about tells the BBC, "Possibly, we’ve got two records under our belt as a reunited and that’s pretty incredible. It seems to be working."
Dinosaur Jr You’re Living All Over Me (SST, 1987)
The second Dino Jr album consolidated all of the band’s wide-ranging influences and saw the trio control their lumbering proto-grunge mess. While Lou and Murph kept it together in the back, from the opening squall of "Little Fury Things" the Mascis axe ravaged with fuzz box explosions, tremolo boomerangs and wah-wah abuse. However, it was the unveiling of J’s songwriting prowess that made You’re Living their cornerstone. Tracks like the tangent-driven "Kracked" and the heartbreaking "In A Jar" show this "permastoner" had an ear for melody and noise like few others.
Sebadoh III (Homestead, 1991)
What better way to say "fuck you" to the guys who kicked you out then to release one of the most influential records of the decade in the American underground. Thanks to his newly found three-way partnership with Eric Gaffney and Jason Loewenstein, Lou Barlow had the last laugh with this muddled masterpiece. The counterbalance of Eric’s fucked up rocker and Lou’s folksy introspective compositions plays like an interpretation of Jeckyll & Hyde, but it’s the fragmented and imperfect mix that makes it so memorable.
Dinosaur Jr Green Mind (Blanco y Negro, 1991)
On the major label debut, J Mascis almost single-handedly ushered in a new era for Dino Jr. With Murph on only three tracks and a handful of guests filling in here and there, J answered any questions about whose band it was with Green Mind, the "ear bleeding country" archetype. Previous albums helped usher in the concept of grunge, but J eschewed many of those noisy elements by introducing more acoustic guitars and even a bloody Mellotron. It’s still rife with solos and frenzied guitar, but more than ever, J proved he was ready for the mainstream with radio-ready pop songs like "The Wagon" and "Thumb" — even though the doorbell never rang.
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