Dinosaur Jr. is ready to make nice. Barlow, Mascis and Murph reunite to tour the west coast performing the 1988 classic Bug in its entirety.
“Freak Scene” is an amazing song: jangly guitar chords and screaming solos beaten to a pulp by thunderous drums and thick-as-shit bass, all forming the perfect alt-pop anthem of the late eighties. And that break. That break.
Sometimes I don’t thrill you
Sometimes I think I’ll kill you
Just don’t let me fuck up will you
‘Cause when I need a friend it’s still you
BOOM. Back to magic town. Dinosaur Jr. were never short on hooks, ear shredding solos, and distorted noise-a-thons that felt like an earthquake that lives inside a tornado. They were also never short of Behind the Music-style drama complete with stories circulating about Mascis hitting Barlow in the head with the headstock of his guitar when he missed a cue on stage, dictating every move and note of drummer Murph and, essentially, going the way of the hot air balloon: up, up and away. It shows in his playing. Mascis was one of the best noodlers of the nineties. To stand onstage and play a set that is fundamentally a 60-minute guitar solo is gutsy. To do it well is near impossible. To do it habitually and incessantly is a little nuts, but let’s face it. Mascis is all of these things. Loud, aggressive, bold, nuts – and these are the ingredients for success. So why would the band, after over a decade since its release, reunite to play Bug from start to finish up and down the west coast? Especially after making this comment in 2005:
“Bug is my least favorite of all our records,” says Mascis. “I like some of the songs but, I dunno, I guess I really don’t like the vibe of it.”
Well, there it is. But feelings can change. After years of trading insults via side-projects, Barlow and Mascis are back in the saddle again; all negativity put aside (supposedly), all lyrical name-calling abated. Besides, Bug is what the fans want. It is the band at their prime, their sound etched solidly upon the grooves, their style forever influential. As much as fans like a good piece of gossip to chew upon alongside their sonic booms, I believe they like a reunion story even better. After all, a happy ending is nothing without getting mashed in the face by a headstock first. Reunited and it feels so good.
Dinosaur Jr. play The Fillmore Thursday, December 15. Doors are at 8pm, tickets are $32.50 and the show is all ages. Pierced Arrows provide main support and Mr. “Do It” himself – Henry Rollins – will be interviewing Dinosaur Jr. live, on stage, before their set.
All photos by Brantley Gutierrez