HFN106 - rocking out like it's still '86, or sometime closely around then:
This is Dinosaur Jr.'s first album, Dinosaur, back from before they had to add the 'Jr.' part. The first three albums have been reissued on coloured vinyl on Baked Goods, and I posted up Bug already. They all come with the same marble/splatter patterns, just in different colours.
I haven't got You're Living All Over Me yet (red) because, strange as it may sound, I've never gotten into it. Bug is my preference ('Freak Scene' et al.) for their earlier work, followed by this. It's not specifically the noise tracks, it's just the - to me - general incoherence of the album.
Dinosaur starts off with the explosive rocker 'Bulbs of Passion', full of mumbling quiet parts, distortion-drenched parts, and parts of full-on screaming. And then there's 'Forget the Swan', which they played in the encore last night and has a riff which really reminds me of Thin Lizzy (maybe that's why they played it for their Dublin show?). But I'm getting ahead of myself.
You probably can't make many grand claims about Dinosaur against the rest of their catalogue, but it's still a solid and rewarding album to go back to. Moreover, it has some near-perfect moments buried in the mumbly, raw and occasionally jangly sound (often the moments are those mumbling, distorted jangles in the first place) which is all very familiar Dino Jr. territory. The whole think is a melange of rock, some folksy sounds, noise and sweet, sweet melodies:
That's the back cover (design by Lou) below, with an incredibly youthful and short-haired J. Mascis and a goth-like Lou Barlow. Then there's the two sides of the record, with photographs that I think are a little better than those I managed to take of Bug, but that still don't show a true impression of the vinyl. It's partly translucent, so depending on whether you hold it up to the light, or put it down on the platter, it never really looks the same way. Click to enlarge:
And so, on the show.
First up, Lou Barlow walked on stage and said:
"The support band didn't show up
but luckily I had this guitar with me"
So the special guest was a 30 minute solo acoustic set with Lou Barlow. I'm not sure if it was planned, but as it was he only had four strings on his guitar and as such, had to mostly stick to songs he played on his ukulele.
He started off with a few Sebadoh songs; you could tell by how short they were. I listened to III a while ago and didn't really connect to the lo-fi, kinda Minutemen-ish sound, but I have to say I enjoyed his set quite a lot. Some of the longer songs sounded slightly Daniel Higgs or Pupils-ish (and right after his set, they played a couple of Lungfish songs over the PA, from Love is Love I think), or a bit of Eddie Vedder on the Into the Wild soundtrack. It was a very calm and relaxing way to start off a gig. Real nice.
Then the full band set up. A trio of stacked amps for J. Mascis, and when Dino Jr. started playing it was simply ridiculously loud. I think perhaps because of the size of the room, it didn't feel physically uncomfortable but it was recognizably extremely high on the decibels level. I've been to see the Locust and while the extent of their noise terrorism onslaught hasn't yet been repeated in my experience, Dinosaur Jr will probably come next down the line. Right now, my ears are still ringing.
Unsurprisingly then, I don't know what the first two songs were, except that they were purely and viscerally enjoyable. There might have been equipment problems, or maybe J. Mascis hadn't woken up yet (before Barlow went on stage, shortly after the doors opened, Mascis shuffled through the venue in an anorak and carrying what kind of looked like a grocery bag) but it wasn't until the third song, 'Crumble', that the clarion guitar sound arrived.
I've heard mixed reviews of Dinosaur Jr. reunion shows, that there are as many lax, lacklustre 'off' nights as there are on. Not that I have anything to compare it to, but I'm pretty sure that this was an on. 'Almost Ready', 'Been There All The Time', 'Freak Scene', 'Back To Your Heart' (I think), as well as 'Pick Me Up', the "sweetest non-metal metal riff" of 2007 (thanks, landanimal) were all there in incandescent glory, as well as plenty of songs from Living All Over Me and (so I'm told) Green Mind. So pretty much, it was all there and all switched on.
I'm tempted (and, at least, this was my feeling at the time last night) to accord this 'gig of a lifetime' status with Slint's Spiderland show last year. I obviously 'came late' to Dinosaur Jr. party, but so much so that Beyond was largely my first exposure to the band. I was aware of Dinosaur Jr. as a big, influential 80s alterna-rock band (and I had You're Living All Over Me bookmarked in my eMusic queue) but it wasn't until repetitively hearing the 'Crumble' single on Phantom FM that I got hooked. Really, this show was as much about seeing the recent album performed (best record of 2007 for me) as it was about experiencing a musical legacy of two decades ago.
That may or may not have been the thought of the somewhat older guy in the flannel shirt (now as thin as tissue in 2008, ha!) beside me and the quasi-metalheads with which he started a moshpit, but - apart from wondering what Ian MacKaye would do - it was easy to recognize the energy this band stirred in people. When they played that aforementioned riff from 'Pick Me Up' the room was mostly stilled however, just an incredible groove moving through the audience.
I generally prefer punk and indie to rock'n'roll, but this was a rock show. While at first it was an experience of epic audio proportions, it was also a considerably physical spectacles. The last few posts, on albums and 7"s, I've been getting into the aesthetics of things, and the same with this show. The three musicians in a straight line (Mascis, Murph and Barlow) across the small-ish stage was a simple and effective presentation; on top of which visually, were layered the volumes and volumes of sound and energy.
I think it was in the middle of 'Pick Me Up', again, that a transfiguration of the stage overcame me. There was an angularity between guitars, drumsticks, mic stands and lightings that just merged into one powerful, violent image (standing pretty much front and centre). Picasso's Guernica, above, came into my head a lot like An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump came to me for Dan Deacon. Of course, a Dinosaur Jr. show, loud as it may be, and as knuckleheaded as some of the fans may be, isn't a war zone - it's much more positive, emotionally - but there is a sense of destruction and collapse in the music; particularly in the elaborate, tangential adaptation of blues and hardcore which defines the J. Mascis-led sound.
On the way out, I picked up the Beyond LP + 7" (vinyl merch is going to make gig-going considerably more expensive for me!) so I might make a post of that sometime - although I still have the two Future of the Left 7"s from the last gig I was at, so I'll have to do them first. In the meantime, here are the links to the 1988 Peel Session and the 'Been There All The Time'/'Back To Your Heart' 7" that were posted up earlier:
There are no trees outside the Academy, but there are trams.
This is J. Mascis's trio of stacked amps (well, 2 2/3rds stacks). The sound engineer (who lived in Dublin in the 70s) is blogging the tour. This photo is either from Dublin or Belfast, judging by the railings in the background I'm guessing the Academy in Dublin but, logically, the set-up should look exactly the same in either place.