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Posts Tagged ‘Dinosaur Jr’

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By Joel Francis
The Kansas City Star

For the first time in more than 20 years, the Pixies rolled into town in support of new material.

The influential college rock quartet has now been around longer as a reunion act than in their initial stint. Reunited contemporaries like Dinosaur Jr. have released multiple new albums, making the paucity of new Pixies material – two songs – even more glaring. That changed late last year when lead singer/songwriter Black Francis dropped four new songs on an EP and followed it up with four more last month.

All but one of those songs were played when the band performed at the Midland Theater on Tuesday night. Toss in the single “Bagboy” and the as-yet unrecorded “Silver Snail” and new material comprised nearly a third of the band’s setlist. The new recordings received a mix reception online, but for the most part they worked in concert.

The appropriately noisy “What Goes Boom” blended seamlessly with the band’s cover of the Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Head On.” Later, in a quieter moment, Francis segued from “In Heaven (Lady in Radiator)” to “Andro Queen.” The songs were recorded 26 years apart, but sounded onstage like they were pulled from the same session.

JfDKB.St.81“Bone Machine” announced the band’s presence, and although the thumping bassline that introduced the song was familiar the musician wasn’t. Paz Lenchantin, a veteran of A Perfect Circle and Billy Corgan’s Zwan, filled the gaping hole left when founding member Kim Deal departed last June.

Lenchantin didn’t have any problems replicating Deal’s basslines, but her thin voice was often buried in the mix.The band arrived as if shot out of a cannon, blasting through the first eleven songs in less than 30 minutes.

Doing their best Ramones impression, the band rarely paused between songs and hardly acknowledged the near-capacity crowd before barreling into the next number. The songs were never rushed, but they were definitely urgent.

Some of the best moments were the demented rockabilly of “Brick is Red” and the surf guitar intro to “Ana.” Guitarist Joey Santiago got plenty of time to play with feedback during “Vamos,” one of the few times the band deviated from the recorded arrangement. A medley of “Nimrod’s Son” and “Holiday Song” started with“Nimrod” at full speed before bouncing into “Holiday Song.” A slowed-down arrangement of “Nimrod” closed the medley.

At 33 songs and 100 minutes, the band devoted plenty of time to exhume some deep cuts from its catalog, and deliver most of its biggest songs (including both versions of “Wave of Mutilation”). Francis let the crowd take over the choruses on “Where is My Mind?” and “Here Comes Your Man.” Given the band’s underground legacy, it was odd to see fists pumping in the air with every “chien” on the chorus of “Debaser,” but the quartet definitely knew how to work the theater crowd.

The Pixies first reunion concert in Kansas City was a victory lap. The second concert was a celebration of their greatest album. This third visit was a view of the Pixies as a working band, trying to prove they still have plenty to say. They do.

Setlist: Bone Machine; Wave of Mutilation; U-Mass > Head On (Jesus and Mary Chain cover); What Goes Boom; Distance Equals Rate Times Time; Ilsa de Encanto; Monkey Gone to Heaven; Ana; Brick is Red; I’ve Been Tired; Magdalena; Cactus; Gouge Away; Bagboy; Blue Eyed Hext; Crackity Jones; unknown song; Veloria; Havalena; Snakes; Silver Snail; In Heaven (Lady in Radiator); Andro Queen, Indie Cindy; Greens and Blues; Where is My Mind?; Here Comes Your Man; Vamos; Nimrod’s Son/Holiday Song (medley); Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf). Encore: Debaser; Planet of Sound.

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(The iPod has come a long way since its introduction in Oct., 2001. What has commercial radio done over that period?)

By Joel Francis

The Daily Record’s two-week experiment ended yesterday. For the past two weeks, I’ve been listening to myiPod on all-song shuffle, dedicated to penetrating 10 percent of my 12,226-tune pocket library. The journey was not only a blast, but it’s also been very revelatory. Songs sound different when they arrive unannounced and stripped of all context.

At first blush, the Futureheads sound a lot like the Jam, and “Mystery Title” from Robert Plant’s “Pictures At Eleven” doesn’t sound that different from what Zeppelin were going for on “In Through the Out Door.” To these ears, Mavis Staples’ 2008 album “Hope: Live at the Hideout” paled in comparison with its studio counterpart “Down In Mississippi,” and Staples’ energetic stop at the Folly Theater on that tour. But “The Hideout”‘s “Freedom Highway” blew me away when it popped up.

The Nine Inch Nails track “Zero-Sum” sounded like something Peter Gabriel would have placed on “Security.” The shuffle rescuedthe magnificient “I’m A Lady” from its burial deep in the second half of Santogold’s album. Heck, even a Ghostface Killah’s comedy sketch managed to evoke a chuckle when it popped up between Dinosaur Jr and Billie Holiday.

Not to sound too much like a fuddy-duddy, but there are a lot of aspects of the old music paradigm that I miss. Record Store Day is a great new tradition, but it can’t compete with the rush and anticipation of New Release Tuesdays. I also miss the days when radio would actually turn me on to good music and artists. None my or my friends’ automobiles in high school and college had CD players, so we relied on the radio for entertainment. It wasn’t perfect – Kansas City still had way too much classic rock clogging the airways – but when you haven’t yet heard “Frankenstein” a million times, it didn’t seem so bad. We tried to sing the “woo-woos” all the way through “Sympathy for the Devil” (impossible) and memorize the lyrics to “American Pie” and “Like A Rolling Stone.” (Check and check. Also, sadly, “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”)

I didn’t need to know anything about the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to notice that radio started to suck that year. Eventually, though, we graduated and got better cars. I made sure mine had a CD player and turned my back completely on commercial radio. I have yet to find a compelling reason to go back. And while my iPod only reveals what I put into it, it’s nice to know there are still hundreds of treasures waiting to be revealed. Now if only I could figure out how to be the ninth caller and win that T-shirt.

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(Above: The Stooges do “1969” in 2007.)

By Joel Francis

When Ron Asheton started playing electric guitar in the mid-’60s, there were no signs pointing the way he wanted to go. The Beatles were just starting to experiment with feedback and backwards instrumentation on their albums; Pink Floyd was buried in the London underground and Andy Warhol had yet to champion the Velvet Underground (not that many were paying attention anyhow).

The closest things to the sounds in his head were Pete Townshend’s guitar riff on The Who’s “My Generation,” the surf guitar instrumentals of Dick Dale and the dirty blues of the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds.

By the time Asheton, his brother Scott, and their longtime friend Dave Alexander hooked up with fellow Ann Arbor, Mich. musician Jim Osterberg there were a few more road signs. Home state natives the MC5 had kicked out their jams, and the free jazz freak-outs of John Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders were regularly released on the Impulse label. But there still weren’t many fellow travelers on the Asheton brothers’ weird road during the Summer of Love. Osterberg, who would soon call himself Iggy Pop, was one hitchhiker they had to pick up.

Four years later, it was mostly over. In retrospect, it’s amazing the band lasted that long. The Stooges two albums, released in 1969 and 1970, were rawer than razor burn, more violent than the 1968 Democratic Convention and as combustible as the Hindenburg. When it was over, Asheton’s guitar work pointed the way that nearly every guitarist since has followed, or at lease acknowledged.

It’s difficult to imagine the furious stomp of the White Stripes and the six-string perversions of Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr without the expanded palette Asheton created. The Sex Pistols and the Damned both covered “No Fun” in concert. Heck, the blueprint of the grunge movement was mostly hijacked from the Stooges’ designs.

Of course David Bowie prodded the Stooges to reconvene in 1973 for “Raw Power,” but it wasn’t the same. Iggy’s name was out front and Asheton was confined to the bass guitar by Ig’s new best bud, James Williamson. There was even a piano player! Asheton’s rightful place on lead guitar was restored when the Stooges reunited a generation later for a couple guest shots on Iggy’s solo album, an R.L. Burnside tribute and, finally, an album of their own, but by then they were no longer leaders.

Ron Asheton’s name rarely comes up in “Guitar God” discussions. The music he made nearly 40 years ago remains difficult to assimilate by mainstream tastes. And like his long-overdue adulation, it took people a while to figure out he was gone. Six days after dying from a heart attack, Asheton’s body was discovered in his Ann Arbor apartment.

There was no obituary in the New York Times and little mention on the 24-hour news channels, but somewhere in heaven a white cloud is tarnished with soot and Asheton’s scary noise is driving the harp-plucking cherubs out of their minds. Which is as it should be.

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Beyond

By Joel Francis

Subtlety has never been a Dinosaur Jr trademark, but since the original lineup regrouped nearly two years ago, they have quietly been establishing the template for how a reunion should go.

With “Beyond,” the first album with the original lineup of J Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph since 1988, Dinosaur Jr have not only conquered the studio phobia plaguing most reunited bands, but have also made one of the best albums of their career.

Sonically, “Beyond” fits snugly between “Bug” and “You’re Living All Over Me” and feels like the natural resumption of a conversation that should never have ended. Mascis has been fine regardless of the musicians he’s surrounded himself with; however, “Beyond” hammers home the fact that Barlow and Murph bring out the best in their leader and each other.

Mascis’ wailing guitars and mourning vocals on “Almost Ready” open the album like a long-lost relative kicking in the door for a surprise visit. But “Beyond” is far more than a nostalgia trip, even if it is impossible to not float back to the early ‘90s while listening.

All three members seem ready to make nice. Pleas for reconciliation and understanding fill half of Mascis’ songs, including darn near an apology in “What If I Knew,” the closing track.

Barlow’s “Back To Your Heart” has a jangle and buoyancy missing from the rest of the album while his “Lightning Bulb” follows Mascis’ acoustic ballad “I Got Lost,” which may be the most beautiful song the band has done.

A good band getting back together is always interesting – even more so when it improves their legacy. If the Pixies, the Police or any other reunion act have the courage to venture back into the studio, they’ll have “Beyond” to measure up to. We’ll be lucky if any do half as well.

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Concert Review: Dinosaur Jr April 13 at Liberty Hall

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Dinosaur Jr

By Joel Francis
The Kansas City Star

There’s just no pleasing some people.
Faced with the opportunity to see the original lineup of Dinosaur Jr perform for the first time in 18 years, some morons would rather throw trash onstage and heckle the band.
Fifty minutes into the band’s set and partway into the song “Sludgefeast,” singer and guitarist J Mascis angrily knocked his mic stand over and threw his guitar to the ground while he walked offstage. The rest of the band – bass player Lou Barlow and drummer Murph – followed, leaving the audience to piece together what happened: someone hit Mascis’ mic stand while he was singing, and the microphone hit him in the mouth.
Mascis confirmed that when the trio returned a few minutes later.
“Sorry about that. I just didn’t want to lose my teeth,” he said as the band assaulted the song “Kracked,” which led into “Freak Scene,” which merged into “Chunks.”
The trio had been playing well before impromptu break in the show; when they returned to the stage, they played even louder, more aggressively and, well, better.
They soon left again. Most of the fans used this time to coax them back out for an encore; but someone started throwing trash onstage. He was escorted out.
After two rushed numbers, including a cover of “Just Like Heaven,” Dinosar Jr left for good. They had been onstage for 75 minutes.
The evening started more promisingly. After nearly two decades of fighting and bitterness, all seemed forgiven and forgotten when Barlow and Mascis traded stanzas on the opening number, “Gargoyle.”_The band and its material, which drew almost exclusively from its first three albums, sounded astonishingly fresh, especially when they stretched out on “Forget the Swan” and “Bulbs of Passion.”
The unlikelihood of this reunion was not lost on the crowd, many of whom were too young to have seen the band the first time around. The show wasn’t sold out, but almost everyone seemed delighted and appreciative of anything played for them – almost everyone. It’s a shame a couple jerks had to interrupt the evening for everyone.

Setlist: Gargoyle, Tarpit, No Bones, the Wagon, Forget the Swan, Bulbs of Passion, the Lung, Little Furry Things, Lose, In A Jar, Sludgefeast (aborted), Kracked, Freak Scene, Chunks. Encore: Just Like Heaven (The Cure cover), Mountain Man

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Dinosaur Jr

By Joel Francis
The Kansas City Star

Anybody can do a reunion tour these days.
Dead or unwilling bandmates are no longer an obstacle; just ask the Doors, INXS, Queen or the New Cars.
Two years ago the Pixies destroyed expectations by burying the hatchet and reuniting. Now Dinosaur Jr has gone one further: Not only is the band’s founding lineup touring together for the first time since the ’80s, but they also are recording new material.
“We’re not really rushing ourselves or pushing hard,” bass player Lou Barlow said of his work with guitarist and songwriter J Mascis and drummer Murph. “We’re not working long days, but slowly it’s kind of taking shape. It reminds me of the Fog stuff J’s done.”
Recording the new Dinosaur Jr material at J’s house has been a homecoming on more than one level, Barlow said.
“When we’re done working there, I go back and stay with my parents because all this is out in Massachusetts, and I live in California,” Barlow said. “We’re doing things that are familiar but much mellower. It’s like going home. It’s unique and it’s Dinosaur but without the drama.”
Drama was one of the hallmarks of the initial tours, where tensions often ran high.
“We were never at each other’s throats,” Barlow said. “There was nothing outward; it was all very repressed. Any warfare was done covertly. It was a war of attrition. Everyone would consciously or unconsciously try to wear each other down. It wasn’t fun.”
The more things change, the more they stay the same — sort of.
“It’s like that now but way softer,” Barlow said with a laugh. “There’s a sense we can enjoy ourselves now.”
From 1984 to 1989, Dinosaur Jr single-handedly brought the guitar solo back to post-punk underground rock, helping pave the way for Nirvana and the ’90s grunge movement.
“It was stunning to realize how loud he plays guitar,” Barlow said. “After I was kicked out I never played in a band as loud as Dinosaur Jr.”
In the interceding years, Barlow sued his former band over royalties and wrote angry songs about Mascis. But in the last few years their paths began to cross onstage again.
“J and I played onstage a couple of times,” he said. “There was a Stooges thing with the Asheton brothers and Mike Watt where I did a guest vocal. Then we did a benefit show in western Massachusetts where J played a solo with Sebadoh.”
Those shows planted the seed that resulted in a reunion show at last year’s Lollapalooza in Chicago. From there a larger tour was booked.
“The agenda is clear: J wants to make a ton of money, and Murph and I were hired to help him do that,” Barlow said. “But we’ve all been enjoying the shows.”
So far the material has drawn from the only three albums Dinosaur Jr recorded as a trio, “Dinosaur,” “You’re Living All Over Me” and “Bug,” and the song “The Wagon.”
“ ‘The Wagon’ is the first thing they recorded after kicking me out,” Barlow said. “I remember I bought the single, listened to it and liked it. Me playing on a Dinosaur Jr song is like me claiming it because my style is so different. Stylistically this is a pretty close fit to me.”
Barlow was fired shortly after “Bug” was completed. Murph lasted a few more albums but had much less of a presence in the studio. By the early ’90s Dinosaur Jr was basically a glorified J Mascis solo outfit.
“I’m glad I was kicked out because the path I took couldn’t have happened otherwise,” said Barlow, whose post-Dinosaur bands include Sebadoh and Folk Implosion. “Maybe someway by touring we’re reclaiming the influence we did have, and I’m reclaiming what I gave to the band Dinosaur that went on to big things after I was gone.”
Until then Dinosaur Jr is accomplishing something it rarely achieved in the ’80s: fun.
“Every night there’s a moment where we’ll be playing a song, and I’ll think, ‘Maybe this is the best I’ve ever played this song,’ ” Barlow said. “That’s cool.”

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Concert Review: Dinosaur Jr April 13 at Liberty Hall

Dinosaur Jr Sets High Bar For Reunion Albums

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