2021 should have been a banner year for the band. They released their first album since 2016 as well as “Freakscene” the long anticipated documentary on the group. However the theatrical release and their world tour faced many postponements due to the Covid pandemic. At long last on May 12th DINOSAUR JR. are performing in Montreal! How I have missed J Mascis‘ laid back vocal drawl and guitar heroics!
This band has stood the test of time, avoiding the pitfalls that destroyed so many alt rock icons of the 1990s. They managed the transition from seminal indie label SST to the major labels with grace. They sold a lot of records but somehow never hit super stardom and never got overexposed. Their trainwreck moments never attracted the attention of the tabloids.
Unconcerned with trends, they just kept doing their own thing, releasing killer albums. Sure they had their ups & downs and personnel changes but the original lineup featuring Lou Barlow (founder of the band Sebadoh) and Murph have been back together since 2005. As the documentary recounts, it wasn’t an easy journey.
How does one describe their sound? Imagine the scratchy vocals of Neil Young if he was heavily sedated by tranquilizers. Add some 1970s Crazy Horse fuzzy guitar tones combined with Sonic Youth style distortion & feedback. Frenetic punk arrangements complemented by the songwriting hooks of The Replacements and Hüsker Dü. Blazing guitar solos that channel Jimi Hendrix with a hint of the sweet country-tinged melodies of The Allman Brothers. The combination of these eclectic elements creates a unique alchemy that is Dinosaur Jr’s signature sound.
When I was a teenager coming up in the punk rock scene, long guitar solos were the least cool thing a band could do. Dinosaur Jr completely changed my mind about that when I saw J Mascis’ face melting solos on “Freak Scene” at the Reading Festival in the Sonic Youth / Nirvana documentary “1991 : The Year Punk Broke“.
But unlike many of their contemporaries, he never flirted with heavy metal wankery or put on airs. The solos always felt like they were coming from a place of pure raw emotion, not from hours of memorizing theory and playing scales with technical precision. The guitar tones were always from actual amplifiers, not digital effect processing & studio trickery.
Their most popular albums “Where you Been” and “Without a Sound” remain classics of the 1990’s alt rock era. Their explosive hit single “Feel the Pain” reached #4 on the Billboard charts and is featured in video games like Guitar Hero : World Tour and Rock Band 2.
Their latest album “Sweep it Into Space” was released on indie label Jagjaguwar. The first single “Take it Back” features the same signature claymation / stop motion aesthetic the band has been using since the early 1990’s. According to the press release:
“For the video, Scott-Dyson “really wanted to use the creature on the front of the album sleeve for Sweep It Into Space as an inspiration and springboard for its own little adventure, exploring some simple notions of creation, dependence, coming of age and searching for another like yourself. I wanted to mix those themes with my style of stop motion animation, everything being very DIY and handmade, using any materials I could get my hands on to bring the idea to life and give it a surreal and otherworldly feel. I’ve always been a really big fan of Dinosaur Jr, so I was working extra hard to do something that could add to such an awesome track and sit alongside it.”
If I had to describe Dinosaur Jr. in one word it would be AUTHENTIC. If I had to describe their live show in one word it would be LOUD. Bring ear plugs.
The Return of DINOSAUR JR. @ Le National on May 12
Presented by Greenland & Evenko
with opening act Myriam Gendron
Thursday May 12th @ Le National
1220 Ste Catherine East, Montreal
Tickets (general admission)
Presale: 43$ incl tax / service fees
Day of show: 48$ incl tax / service fees
In April I attended the North American Premiere of “Stranger Than Kindness : The Nick Cave Exhibition” at the Galerie de la Maison Du Festival in Montreal. It is an unprecedented look into the creative world of this fascinating musician, storyteller and cultural icon. It is no mere collection of memorabilia, it is a cohesive art installation. The exhibition is open until August 7th. You can read my review here.
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Simon is 20 years into a life sentence in the music biz. He's performed at major international festivals and worked with Grammy Award winners. As Music Curator for BKM he gives you a sneak peek behind the curtain...