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11278Clip: Dinosaur Jr.

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  • Carl Z.
    Dec 1, 2005

      Dinosaur Jr.
      Living All Over Us, All Over Again?

      Writer: AARON JENTZEN

      "Of all the bands that are reuniting, I think Dinosaur, and what J did
      on guitar and the songs he wrote are probably, to my ears, the best
      stuff of that era," says Dino bassist and Sebadoh founder Lou Barlow,
      from his Los Angeles home. "I think it's cool to remind people that we
      were the first in a lot of ways. We weren't The First, but the first
      band to synthesize all those influences and channel it into what
      became, almost, the hallmarks of grunge."

      True, the juxtaposition of enormous guitars and plaintive, slackerish
      vocals has since entered the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Cliché, but
      evidence of the band's pre-eminence is emerging from the tar pit, with
      Merge Records' reissues of Dinosaur, You're Living All Over Me and Bug
      -- all remastered and repackaged with bonus material: the full museum
      display. With this first major excavation since the original lineup's
      famously passive-aggressive split in 1988 now underway, the original
      Dinos plan to run Millvale's entire electrical grid through a Big Muff
      pedal when their tour hits Mr. Small's Theatre this Saturday. Just to
      see what happens.

      Try explaining the significance of early Dinosaur Jr. to a guitarist,
      and be prepared for total communication failure. "But J Mascis, I
      mean, he was playing rock-guitar solos with a wah pedal and shit … in

      "1987? That's The Guitar Era. Van Halen, Malmsteem, Metallica, Dream Theater … "

      "Yeah, but … this is different."

      Admittedly, the absurdism of Mascis' work sharing an historical moment
      with Def Leppard's Hysteria is, um, hysteria-inducing, and you
      eventually throw up your hands: "Well, look at it this way: The same
      spineless indie ass-heads who would rip on you today for playing a
      rock solo with a wah pedal and two-hand tapping, would have been
      ripping on J Mascis."

      "Wait. Indie-rock ass-heads are ripping on me?"

      But Barlow sees the re-releases as a way of reclaiming the material
      from earlier botched CD conversions. "Remastering is just a matter of
      bringing out what it sounded like when you mixed down to a quarter
      inch reel-to-reel tape and did the playback and it sounded awesome,"
      he says. "To J's ears, all those CDs that came out didn't sound good
      to him. He's got really good ears for that kind of stuff. He's a
      genius. He went in and took those tapes and made them sound the way
      they did -- originally."

      If you pick up the three discs, don't listen to the second record
      first or you'll never make it to the others. Calling You're Living All
      Over Me a great guitar record is like calling Axis: Bold as Love a
      great guitar record; Mascis may be the Hendrix of his generation,
      regardless of Stevie Ray Vaughn and all other cheeseball pretenders to
      the throne. His truly sonic approach to the instrument has an oddly
      vocal element -- the sound of a human voice time-traveling -- and a
      synchronous subservience to the songs themselves.

      The various insects in amber encrusted on the reissued slabs include
      the genuinely amazing (the video for their cover of "Just Like Heaven"
      kills!) and strictly fans-only fare, such as "Does It Float" performed
      live. While Barlow didn't participate in the repackaging, he's glad to
      catch glimpses of the land before time again, like in the lo-fi video
      for "Little Fury Things."

      "Pure genius," he says. "It has all this stuff like my parents' attic,
      my old car, so … I like the video and love the song, and also I just
      think it's a beautiful video."

      He's less excited about the forthcoming concert DVD the band is
      recording. "When I see those DVDs I'm like, 'Gee, great, I get to see
      a whole new Pixies show front-to-back.' I mean, I don't care, I'm not
      gonna buy that. I like things that are more raw collections and
      things. I don't know what would inspire people to want to buy one live
      show from a band on a DVD. I never have understood."

      Even with the DVD looming, the future for Dinosaur Jr. is wide open,
      if tentatively so. "If J wants to do anything I'll make time to do
      it," Barlow says. "We're just being cautious, and enjoying each step
      that we take and not getting too caught up. … Realistically, the
      Dinosuar Jr. reunion didn't set the world on fire like the Pixies
      reunion did, but at the same time, it's cool for all of us to play
      shows that people come to." He adds, "For all of the ego I give up to
      be a Dinosaur, I get it back by playing my own songs and enjoying what
      I did after Dinosaur Jr. It's been a cool summer."

      Dinosaur Jr. with the Modey Lemon. 8 p.m. Thu., Dec. 1. Mr. Small's
      Theatre, 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. $25. 412-821-4447