Preview: Dinosaur Jr.
The freak scene, whole again
Posted: February 13, 2013
Dinosaur Jr.'s original trio of Mascis, Murph and Barlow reformed in the mid-naughties and have released two albums since.
Dinosaur Jr. formed in Amherst, Massachusetts, in 1984 and released the groundbreaking recording You're Living All Over Me in 1986 on SST Records, the influential punk label based in Long Beach, California, started by Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn and pressing that group as well as anyone else really important: Hüsker Dü, the Meat Puppets and Sonic Youth, for just a few examples.
This trio, however, stood out, even among that pack. Dinosaur Jr. created a weird convergence of distorted country rock meets hardcore, as much influenced by Neil Young and Crazy Horse and Minor Threat as metal acts as varied as Motörhead, The Misfits and Black Sabbath. Early on, Sonic Youth became Dinosaur Jr.'s most important fans, inviting the trio along to support the 1987 tour for Daydream Nation. Dinosaur Jr. had created a feedback-frenzied noisy grunge-punk with a psychedelic-pop spin, but all of this fresh new sound would have been nothing special if not for the songwriting and alt-country punk drawl of singer-guitarist J. Mascis, who tended to veer into over-the-top frantic howls on the standout tracks.
The other original members, Lou Barlow on bass and Murph on drums, recorded three albums on SST. Barlow brought an experimental and artistic edge best explored at the end of You're Living All Over Me. All of the songs on the recording were written and composed by Mascis except the last two. "Lose" is a stark acoustic track with Barlow on vocals and ukulele unlike any previous Dinosaur Jr. roars, and the last track, "Poledo," is a puzzling, lo-fi noise and sampled sound collage with Barlow back on his ukulele.
He was kicked out of the group in 1988. Since the founding of Dinosaur Jr., Barlow had already been active with an experimental project, and this pioneering lo-fi folk-punk group, Sebadoh, even made it to Prague way back when, opening for Sonic Youth and Pavement at the crumbling yet glorious Lucerna Grand Ballroom in November 1992.
When: Monday, Feb. 18, at 8
Where: Lucerna Music Bar
Tickets: 550 Kč in advance/650 Kč at the door
Dinosaur Jr. continued, even releasing albums on Sire Records, a major label, but essentially as a solo project for Mascis. Murph's input was substantially limited on 1991's Green Mind and Where You Been, released in 1993, and he was out of the group completely by the time of 1994's Without A Sound. With Barlow and Murph out of the picture, Dinosaur Jr. never resonated with the original fans. At best, these recordings sounded something similar to the earliest ones, but lacked all the vitality. Hand It Over, released in 1997, was Dinosaur Jr.'s last major label recording with Mascis as the only original member.
He continued with his own group, J. Mascis and the Fog; Barlow kept on playing with Sebadoh. Then, in 2005, the original trio had a much-anticipated reunion concert in London for the legendary festival All Tomorrow's Parties, performing You're Living All Over Me in its entirety. It took still another few years till the boys finally came to their senses and decided to reform the original trio in order to record a new album with songs written by Mascis and, once again, Barlow.
Beyond was released in 2007 on Fat Possum Records, followed by 2009's Farm on Jagjaguwar. The most recent recording, 2012's I Bet On Sky, is similar in sound to the previous two - clearly a step forward for the group away from the hyperfrenzied climaxes of the earliest years, the songs recall a reborn depth and maturity that most tracks on the major label recordings utterly lacked.
Dinosaur Jr. with the original lineup finally made it to Prague in 2008 for a concert at Palác Akropolis.
Whether this is a band that first broke up 25 years ago, when Barlow left, or 20 years ago, with Murph's departure, or only in 1997, when Mascis formally declared the group dead, can be debated by fans and critics.
In any case, the trio playing Prague this week is the real deal.
Tony Ozuna can be reached at