LIVE REVIEW: Dinosaur Jr

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Dinosaur Jr, Luluc @ Metro Theatre, Sydney 12.01.17

There had been some worrying moments leading up to the start of  Dinosaur Jr’s Australian tour, with news that visa issues for Lou Barlow had meant a delayed flight. It all got sorted but there was more drama to come.

img_8246Luluc had opening honours, as they have for a number of J Mascis solo shows in the USA. Minor technical issues dotted their set but didn’t detract from the duo’s near telepathic interplay. Some may have pegged them as a folky pair but they imbued their songs with just the right amount of grit, drone and frayed guitar sounds to take them closer to a band like Low. In front of a crowd eagerly awaiting the sonic might of Dinosaur Jr, they proved to be an entrancing support act.

As mentioned above, it was a relief to see the shaggy-haired Barlow saunter on-stage but worryingly Dinosaur Jr’s drummer Murph was nowhere to be seen, replaced by Kyle Spence of American band Harvey Milk and the onetime stickman for J Mascis’ The Fog. J Mascis ambled to the mic and mumbled “Your government wouldn’t let Murph into the country so we brought Kyle” *. The mood in the room shifted to unease but as soon as they launched into their first song it was clear the guy had the chops to nail the songs. From there it was down to business with a mix of the old and the new with last year’s Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not album providing particular highlights in Goin Down and the monstrous Sabbath riffage of I Walk For Miles; showcasing the band’s ability to harness speed, melody and heaviness. Classic cuts peppered the set with The Wagon, Feel The Pain, Freak Scene and Start Choppin’ drawing the biggest crowd response with flailing limbs and nostalgic grins plastered across middle-aged faces. On opposite sides of the stage, Mascis and Barlow were split personalities in their physicality. Mascis the zen-like figure in the eye of a hurricane, extracting paint-pealing solos and buzzsaw chords while Barlow threshed about, a whirling dervish in perpetual motion in total harmony with the dense thrum of his bass. Drummer aside, this was exactly what we’ve come to expect from Dinosaur Jr and their unique brand of self-described “ear-bleeding country”.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: Dinosaur Jr – Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not

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When people drop the needle on the record, insert the CD or click play on their phone and hear the distinctive roar of dense and distorted guitar on the new Dinosaur Jr album a great number of them will think “this sounds like just another Dinosaur Jr album”. That was my gut reaction on first listen. All the components are there. The symbiotic fusion of The Stooges and Crazy Horse, Mascis’ spiralling classic rock guitar solos, the solid and dependant Murph locking it all together on drums, the thrum and pound of Lou Barlow’s low-slung bass and the usual 80/20 songwriting split between Mascis and Barlow.

Hit play again, return the stylus to the first groove and let the songs sink in for this is one of the strongest batch of songs the trio have collected since the trio shuffled back into the public eye in 2005. The speed of the songs and the brittle, heady rush of heavy, heavy melodic guitar rock is right in the pocket. It’s economical and sprawling at the same time. It feels grounded and earthy while launching in the stratosphere on the back of Mascis’ howling, fuzz-laden Fender Jaguar.

There isn’t a great depth to explore in the lyrical content of the songs, they still read like relationship snapshots, polaroids of an argument, a misunderstanding, a yearning. “I want to know, I want to go, I’m all alone” sings Mascis on ‘Tiny’, a typical loose treatise on love lost or temporarily misplaced.

The centrepiece of the album is ‘I Walk For Miles’ with its monolithic slabs of doom-laden riffage. It’s like a lumbering and melancholic lost Black Sabbath song that just keeps growing and growing to epic proportions over five minutes before it climaxes and then cleverly kicks off again like a regenerated monster from a b-grade movie. The album isn’t all gonzo rock moves though. ‘Knocked Around’ is a sweet document of the damage and aftermath of a bruising emotional relationship while Be A Part feels like a warm sonic hug, wistful and nostalgic.

Barlow’s contributions are as important and strong as ever with ‘Love Is’ sounding like R.E.M jamming with The Byrds while album closer ‘Left Right’ is as brilliant as anything else before it as Barlow mixes Cure-like grandeur with a super-hooky staggered rhythm and a beautiful vocal performance.

Yes it’s exactly what you’d expect, and most importantly, want from another Dinosaur Jr album in 2016. It’s a band still on a winning streak, still exploring the seemingly endless creative possibilities within their minimal musical framework, without a hint of boredom or simply trading on past glories.

Chris Familton

 

NEWS: Dinosaur jr. Announce New Album Details

J Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph have announced that a new Dinosaur jr. album called I Bet On Sky will be released on September 18th in the USA via Jagjaguwar, and September 17th in the UK and Europe via PIAS.

Tracklisting

1 Don’t Pretend You Didn’t Know
2 Watch the Corners
3 Almost Fare
4 Stick a Toe In
5 Rude
6 I Know It Oh So Well
7 Pierce the Morning Rain
8 What Was That
9 Recognition
10 See It on Your Side

REVIEW: DINOSAUR JR – Farm

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Dinosaur Jr are now into album #2 as the reunited original lineup of J Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph. Many people expected the reunion to be short lived and that the bitterness of old times would rear its head to scuttle the union like it has for so many other bands. 2007’s Beyond was as good a return to form as anyone could have predicted and their live show proved to be as searing and joyous as ever. The question still remained if that was their last flash of genius or if they had plenty more sonic adventures ahead.

The brilliance of Dinosaur Jr can be defined by the way in which they identify their strengths and play to them. There is no more grandstanding and battling over songwriting credits. Mascis is the leader, the somnambulistic Womble who can create an electrical storm with his guitar while appearing to be fast asleep. Barlow is still the angrier melodic foil, contributing his golden batch of songs and some attacking bass playing. Murph is the loyal drummer, solid and reliable and content to play what Mascis tells him to play.

If Beyond was their revitalised calling card to remind everyone they were still here then Farm is a settling in album. It doesn’t have the sharpness and abrasive qualities that Beyond had and even the cover art reflects the state of mind of the record with sleepy (stoned?) tree creatures lumbering across the landscape, cradling children. It is exactly how Farm feels – big warm and cozy. Taking you away from reality to another place, unknown yet comforting.

The epic strains of ‘Oceans In The Way’ sets the tone early with its widescreen sound and the quintessential peals of guitar notes that Mascis showers over nearly everything he writes. It is almost like his voice is the backing track and his guitar is the lead vocal creating the drama and emotion in the songs.

“I’ve got nothing left to be, do you have some plans for me” sings Mascis on ‘Plans’ and he seems to be both content with everything he has yet still a mite curious about what else is out there. Lyrically Dinosaur Jr songs tend to be circular musings without any great meaning but it does feel like there is a wistfulness that emerges on Farm, a reminiscing and a questioning of everything around him. When Mascis sings “I got lost in thought, I’m over it” on ‘Over It’ he almost seems bewildered as if he out of step with the times.

Lou Barlow continues the pattern of contributing a handful of key songs on their albums and again he doesn’t disappoint with the grinding ‘Your Weather’. His vocal style is such a contrast that it provides a relief of sorts to Mascis’ endless guitar and stoner singing. Barlow has a melodic psych-folk tone that lifts songs in a unique way and its essential to the brilliance of the band and the album.

The guitar playing of Mascis is again the centrepoint of Farm. Like Neil Young and Creedence Clearwater Revival filtered through hardcore and punk it is such a distinctive sound that somehow never seems to become tired. To the uninitiated it may appear he is recycling the same bunch of riffs over and over but on repeated listens there are gems galore at every turn. The brief descending notes in ‘Friends’ are crunching and military like and the solo in the song is as bright and soaring as you’ll find anywhere. Contrasting that is the slow motion and swaying ‘Said The People’ that could be a metal ballad in another parallel world. In the hands of Mascis it is heavy with real drama and gravitas.

The highlight of the album is ‘See You’ is an absolute delight with its simple skipping guitar jangle and warm buzzing meanderings. It Is Mascis at his sweetest and most pop. It shuffles along like a sunny sunday morning and will have you humming the central hook long after it has finished. It shows that they aren’t just a one trick guitar solo band and that they can mix things up and still use the same ingredients that are in all their songs.

One minor complaint is that Farm is overlong by a couple of songs, yet even so, it is right up there with the best of their early albums and the classic Green Mind. Like their contemporaries Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr are still on a winning streak, proving they can outlive fashion and rise above musical trends. They meld dissonance with melody and they do bruised beauty better than anyone else. Extinction is a long way from the minds of J, Lou and Murph.

Reviewed for FasterLouder.