Dinosaur Jr. are part of these bands which we always liked and which actually never really disappeared from the radar, even if their line-up and records production might have respectively changed or slowed down. Formed in Amherst, MA, USA, the classic line-up is based around leader J. Mascis on voice and guitar, Lou Barlow on bass and Murph on drums. Their style is a mix of laid-back lyrics played furiously with saturated guitars. They were part of the mid-80’s US guitar bands’ scene with Sonic Youth, The Replacements or Hüsker Dü for instance and despite the fact that Lou Barlow went away from a long time from the band to focus on Sebadoh, they have been back together for a few years and are now touring again, hence this double-special post on their records and last show in Paris, you lucky readers!
The early years
This is probably not the record I would recommend for a Dinosaur Jr. newcomer as this is not their most accomplished record and they had to find their style. However, this is still an interesting piece of music and the idea in sounding like Neil Young with heavily hardcore guitar solo sounds is already there, even if sometimes a bit over the edge.
For their sophomore LP, Dinosaur Jr. really started to find their sound, mixing laid-back and very melodic harmonies with a hardcore fury… and guitar solos, which was not the ethics of the independent scene in the late 80’s. A huge improvement and focus vs. their first LP, “You’re Living All Over me” was their first milestone towards a great career.
Not yet their most accomplished work, this is however the album for which they had been talked about outside the small US hardcore scene. “Freak Scene” in particular is their best song ever (indispensable !) and one great track to practise one’s air guitar!
Exit Lou! The mid-years
This album went out whereas the future of the band was more than uncertain : Lou Barlow was off and he would stay this way for many years, Murph was drumming only on a few tracks and it was more a solo project than anything else. Great single though with “The Wagon” and a very solid and entertaining album overall with the first signs of a more robust sound, which would develop throughout the next albums.
An amazing record to my mind whereas this is probably not the album most people would refer to if asked. Which is the real shame as J. Mascis’ art has never been as accomplished, either with fantastic rock songs held by beautiful guitar solos or with a few acoustic and very moving ballads.
As good as their previous effort, this is not for sure the classic Dinosaur Jr. line-up as J. Mascis is the only one remaining member but a classic as well as far as I am concerned. The production is cleaner than ever on this record but it does not mean no more dirty side. The first three tracks in particular made it a tremendous start of a record and rarely has J. sung so good (well, you know what I mean…).
Not the most popular and famous record of their career, it has however plenty of good moments, although no killer single, hence my first remark. Interesting as well for the presence of My Bloody Valentin on a few tracks and for the use of new instruments (horns in a Dinosaur Jr. record anyone?). We thought it would be their swan record at that time but life is sometimes full of surprises, especially in the music business…
The comeback years…and current times
Quite unexpected comeback with the classic line-up of J., Lou and Murph as the three of them were not in good terms to say the least. However, the 2005 reissues of the three first albums made them faint peace and they went on playing a few excellent shows, hence this new LP…which is great. A kind of mix of the energy of the first LP’s with the confidence and maturity that J. Mascis had found with old age. The start of another great new story…
Contrary to other reformed bands who generally disappoint with their second new LP, “Farm” is once more as good as classic-period Dinosaur Jr. The album starts slowly, due probably to less surprise and enthusiasm from the listener but is a real grower with great tracks at the end of the record. I warmly recommend the vinyl version first because as you all know “vinyl rules!” and secondly to enjoy the beautiful cover drawn by artist Marq Spusta.
First apologies to you beloved reader as really this album should have been part of our Best of 2012 list but I must admit I had not been impressed after first listening, which was a complete mistake on my side, such this new LP is accomplished. One can feel a real pleasure to play and the melodies are particularly nice. If you want to discover the world of Dinosaur Jr., why not start with their last LP and I hope these humble comments on their ten studio albums could help you go further.
Update with a new Dinosaur Jr. album!
This is already the fourth album since the Dinosaur Jr. guys decided to give it a go around 10 years ago and the least one could say is that there is consistency in their material. Another excellent album which once again deserves to be listened to many times before giving all its subtleties. The band does what they do best, i.e. punchy melodic songs with great guitar solos. I would personally not ask for more…
You can for sure see The Rolling Stones @ the Trabendo but plenty of other good bands too and tonight was my second Dinosaur Jr. show after having seen them a few years ago as the opening act for Sonic Youth. And yes, this is the original line-up with J. Mascis on guitar and white hair, Lou Barlow on bass and curly hair and Murph on drums and no hair. The show was sold-out tonight, with people from everywhere in the audience, even from Rennes, Brittany, France.
The least one could say is that this is not the sexiest band ever but they are really muscled and on shape as far as music is concerned. J. and Lou have never sung better before, Lou’s bass playing and his sense of harmonies reminds me of Paul McCartney when he did not want to get bored when playing bass in The Beatles and Murph on drums is really efficient (and dressed like a jogger…). J.’s guitar playing is a constant pleasure and the way he plays solos should be a model to every guitar player as this is always at the service of the song and not at all to show one’s technical skills.
Great set list as well, focusing slightly on the very good last LP but getting tunes from all periods ; all the hits were there! Enjoy the following video I took of “Watch the Corners” and see how old men can age gracefully…