Archive for the ‘Lou Barlow’ Category

[ATTENDED: November 26, 2016] Dinosaur Jr.

2016-11-26-22-33-27I saw Dinosaur Jr. open up for Jane’s Addiction this summer.  I enjoyed their set (in fact, I was really going mostly to see them although I did like Jane’s as well).  But after it was over, I realized that I didn’t want to see them as an opening act. I needed a full show.

So even though it had been just a few months, when I saw that they were doing a headlining tour, I decided to check them out again.  And I’m really glad I did.  They played twice as many songs and were on more than twice as long.

The guys were able to stretch their songs out more and to pick from a really diverse set of songs.  2016-11-26-23-15-04Of course, being the headliners didn’t mean anything fancy–their stage set up (amps and more amps) was exactly the same as this summer.  And it’s possible that J. Mascis talked even less.  They were there simply to rock.

2016-11-26-22-59-14The only time that bassist Lou Barlow spoke was to berate people for complaining that they couldn’t hear the vocals.  The same thing happened at the summer show as well.  Barlow seemed pretty angry as he told us that we were standing in front of the guitar amps and that the vocals were coming through the house speakers.  So if we wanted to hear the vocals we needed to move to the back of the club.  “It’s Fucking Physics!”  I didn’t move back (the show was pretty crowded and I had a good spot), but I was able to hear the vocals much better than at the Summer Stage show.  I had planned that I would stand nearer the back to see if it was true, but I had a hard time passing up the chance to be so close. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 16, 2016] Dinosaur Jr.

2016-07-16 19.49.10I have wanted to see Dinosaur Jr for many years.  I intended to see them last year when they toured with Primus, but I couldn’t get to the show.  So I was pretty excited that they were touring again, this time with Jane’s Addiction.

I had never been to a Stone Pony Summer Stage (never been to The Stone Pony either) and I didn’t really know what to expect (reviews on Yelp are pretty harsh).  Things got even more questionable when the weather turned nasty.  The show was supposed to start at 6, but as of 4:30 there was a huge thunderstorm in Absury Park, so they delayed the opening of the show.  And since there were more storms threatening for later, it was possible that it might get cancelled.

Just to make things a little more unsatisfying, Living Colour was supposed to be the first band on the bill.  I’ve never seen them and while I wouldn’t go out of my way to see them, I thought they’d be a lot of fun live.  I found out yesterday (although this was probably decided much earlier) that they weren’t playing in this show (they are in Germany), and that Minus the Bear would be opening instead.

I don’t know Minus the Bear (a lot of bands with names like “noun the noun” lately, and I don’t really know any of them).  I listened to a few songs before the show and thought they might be fun.  But the gates didn’t wind up opening until 8PM, so Minus the Bear didn’t even play. (more…)

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nobokov eyeSOUNDTRACK: DINOSAUR JR.- I Bet on Sky (2012).

ibetI have been so pleased with the reunited Dinosaur Jr.  I’ve enjoyed each of their albums, and feel like they really have hit a great stride of songwriting.  The only difference to me is that these songs are all pretty long, something I don’t really think of as a Dino Jr thing.  They do often have a few longer songs, but on this disc, 5 songs are over 5 minutes and two are nearly 5 minutes long.

As with the last album, I’m not sure why Lou Barlow agreed to reuniting.  Barlow is a great songwriter and has successful other projects.  He gets two (short) songs that he write and sings and that’s kind of it.  I mean, they sound great and really flesh out the album, but it seems like a weird thing for him to do unless he just likes playing the old Dino stuff again.

And then of course there’s Mascis.  It’s amazing how much of a slacker J Mascis sings like and yet what a careful and meticulous guitar player and songwriter he is.  And yes, it’s great to have Murph on drums, too.

“Don’t Pretend You Didn’t Know”  opens just like a great Dino Jr song—that guitar is unmistakable. It’s a fast rocker. With a big old Dino chorus. There’s a lengthy outro solo that really stretches out the song into a jam.  “Watch the Corners” is the other kind of Dino song, a chugger with big slow open chords and a nice riff. (and again a wonderful chorus).  “Almost Fare” is the other, other kind of Dino song, poppy with a kind of cute riff and a slow drawl in the vocals.  And “Stick a Toe In” is a slower ballad–the fourth kind of song that Masics writes so well. It has a nice chorus (with piano (!)) and some dramatic steps in the chorus.  Suffice it to say that although they all sounds like Dino Jr., it’s impressive how many styles of song Mascis writes so well.

Barlow’s first song is “Rude,” a short fast punk rocker.  At just under 3 minutes (with no solo) the song pounds along with a very funny chorus: “I wish I didn’t care cause caring is rude.”  Even though it changes the flow of the album, it just adds to the diversity that is Dino Jr.  In “I Know It Oh So Well” Mascis’ ringing guitar comes back  It’s a simple song with just a few chords and a simple interstitial riff, but he makes it sound very full.

“Pierce the Morning Rain” is the only short Mascis song on the disc (and perversely it gives the album its title).  It has a very heavy metal guitar riff and a super fast paced (and sung) tempo.  “What Was That” is a slow burner with many elements of classic Dino—a great solo in the background of the song and a cool riff along with Mascis’s patented delivery.  “Recognition” is Barlow’s other song. It almost makes 4 minutes.  It sounds more like part of the record (and, strangely, also like the popular Sebadoh tracks). You can really hear Barlow’s vocal style shine through and it’s a great counterpoint to all the Mascis on the disc.  It’s also great song—kind of slow and angular but with a cool fast riff in the bridge.  It also features a pretty wild (and un-Masics-like) guitar solo

“See It on Your Side”  is the last song and at nearly 7 minutes, it feels a little long.  Although that may be because the song seems to end and then starts again.  And yet, that end solo is pretty great.  It’s a very notable Mascis type riff that starts the song.  Even with all of the long songs, the disc still clocks in at around 45 minutes, which is really a perfect amount of Dinosaur Jr. consumption.  Looking forward to the next release.

[READ: October 1, 2014] The Eye

naboI have had Nabokov on my list of authors to read for a long time.  I have read and enjoyed a few of his books and planned to read his oeuvre at some point, just not quite yet.  And then, as serendipity would have it, I stumbled on a book of his novellas (the Penguin classic edition) and decided to read them.  Because they aren’t really meant to be taken as one item, I’m going to mention them individually.

The book includes a Foreword by Vladimir (his son Dmitri translated this with help from Vladimir) that talks a bit about when he wrote it and how he didn’t bother to include details about the location because it wasn’t important to the story (it’s a surprisingly casual foreword).

“The Eye” is a strange story (technically a novella or a very short novel) in which a man, despondent at the beating he receives, tries to kill himself and then believes that he does.

The narrator has been having an affair with a married woman named Matilda.  He’s been a little bored with her lately, and is pretty much over her.  But one night when the narrator is working as the house tutor for two boys (the boys are completely disrespectful to him and every scene with them is very funny), the cuckolded husband comes over and really beats him up.  Just really lays into him (the narrator’s protestations about this not even being his house are rather amusing).  I especially liked that the husband calls first and doesn’t tell him who he is “So much the better–it’ll be a surprise.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SISKIYOU-Siskiyou [CST067] (2010).

Siskiyou is a fascinating band whose debut album was released on Constellation last year.  The main guy in Siskiyou is Eric Huebert, who was drummer for the Great Lake Swimmers.  He quit the band and moved to an organic farm in British Columbia. And while farming he created this album (which is named for the California mountain range and is not, as a I imagined, a play of the phrase Sick of You (which I will still think regardless of the truth).

There’s a wonderful article at Paste about this album, where I learned a lot about the disc.  The disc was recorded in stairwells (which seems so cool) and at field recordings on the beach.  It was made on the cheap and very independently.  And I love it.

It feels very much like a small solo project (although he is quick to point out that he had help from another Great Lake Swimmer, Erik Arensen, as well as his wife and some friends.  But really, it feels like a vulnerable man singing in his wavering voice over some stark acoustic songs.

But unlike a poppy folk album, this one feels awkward.  The melodies are beautiful, but the lack of polish and production makes the recordings feel more fragile than they might otherwise be.

Indeed, Huebert’s voice, while always on pitch, threatens to just collapse under the strain of recording that first song, the gorgeous “Funeral Song.”  But it’s the second song that tells you this isn’t just a home recording.  “Everything I Have” feels like a great Lou Barlow/Sentridoh song–recorded on lo-fi equipment, until you hear the gorgeous horns come in a play the simple yet very winning melody over the loud folk guitars.  Again, if this had been over-produced it might have veered in cheesy, but the lo fi sound (and the cool lyrics) make this one of the best folk songs I’ve heard in ages (and it’s only 2 minutes long, too).

This is followed by two delicate songs: simple melodies, on either banjo or piano and shuffle drums.  My favorite song is “It’s All Going to End.”  Horns give it a kind of mariachi feel, but lyrically it’s wonderful: “I don’t like you one little bit, keep that shit up man, you’re gonna get hit.” All sung in his delicate wavery voice (and again, under 2 minutes long).

Another highlight is the “cover” of “This Land is Your Land.”  Called “This Land,” it opens with a slow piano melody that doesn’t sound anything like the original.  And then he begins whispering the lyrics–once again totally unlike the original.  But mid way through he changes the lyrics, to a new type of song about how he is never going home.  It turns the song mournful and rather powerful.

“Never Ever Ever Ever Again” is a wonderful song of repetition.  And the two short (just over a minute) tracks, “Inside of the Ocean,” and “We All Fall Down” are charming interludes before the lengthy “Big Sur.”  “Big Sur” starts with an upbeat banjo riff but then settles down into a slow (slightly out of tune) guitar piece.  The slow pace is particularly amusing given the incredibly slowly sung lyrics “So let’s party.  Let’s party.  Let’s party.  Party all night long.”

The disc ends with “Brevity and Insult” a song of static and banjos.

Typically I don’t like slow music, but this album adds so many interesting aspects that it doesn’t actually feel slow to me, it feels interesting and challenging  and strangely uplifting.  And I’m looking forward to their next release.

[READ: October 19, 2011] “Snake

This (surprisingly short) story packs so many different ideas into it that it really jostles the reader’s emotions.   It opens with a woman in a car. She’s in the parking lot of a supermarket waiting for her boyfriend, when she begins watching two boys.  They are playing with something on the ground, although she can’t quite tell what it is.

After seeing them lifting a stick, she realizes that it is a mostly-dead snake that they are playing with.  They don’t see her and she watches them decide what to do with the creature.  They decide to play a prank.  The boys test all of the cars in the parking lot and when they find an unlocked door they drop the snake in. (more…)

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