Dinosaur Jr. Roars Again on New Album “Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not”

JAG285Dinosaur Jr.
Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not
(Jagjaguwar)
Release date: 8/5/16

Break out the ear plugs. Western Massachusetts’ own alt-rock power trio, Dinosaur Jr., is back.

New album Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not marks the fourth release by the band since the acclaimed 2005 reunion of the group’s original line-up – J Mascis (guitar, vocals), Lou Barlow (bass, vocals) and Murph (drums). In fact, this current incarnation of Dinosaur has now actually lasted longer and produced more records than it did in the ‘80s, when Mascis and company turned out such ear-crushing gems as You’re Living All Over Me and Bug. And while the new album bears less resemblance to those early classics than it does to the band’s more recent reunion work, that fact only aids the assertion that the group’s second life is no fluke, it’s a full-on resurgence.

Opening with the one-two punch of singles “Goin Down” and “Tiny,” Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not hits the ground running.

“Are you with me?” Mascis sings on the album opener. “I got more to say.”

Though not normally cited for his loquaciousness, the guitarist lets his axe speak for him with catchy riffing and skittery solos filling up both tracks’ running times. It’s alternative rock with a pop sheen for the ‘90s nostalgia age, and the Murph and Barlow rhythm section keep up a relentless chug.

“Be A Part” slows the tempo with a repeated guitar figure ringing out between lines focusing on being “broken hearted.” But it’s the Barlow penned cut “Love Is…” that marks the first deviation from the band’s trademark crunch. Over acoustic guitar and some lurking fuzz, the Sebadoh founder feels right at home on a song that wears its ‘60s influence on its sleeve. It almost even sounds like another band is playing complete with Mascis’ ragged Neil Young-like solo conjuring a classic rock vibe.

The album’s second half features a return to a heavier sound. “I Walk For Miles” feels like a slow trudge with a bludgeoning grunge riff that stomps along as Mascis’ reach for a higher register accents the weary atmosphere of the track. At nearly six minutes in length, the number also pairs with the five-plus minute “Lost All Day” to hammer out an air of wistfulness that sees lyric subject matter looking backwards at past relationships and the things that went wrong.

“Knocked Around” follows suit. “I miss you all the time and I’m lonely,” Mascis laments on the first half of the number, sounding plaintive and wrung out. Then, strength gathered, the band soars into overdrive for the rest of the track with the furious strumming barely keeping up with the relentless drumming.

Finally, it’s left to Barlow to close out the album with his second contribution. “Left/ Right” again sounds like a song that could come from another band, only this time that band is Barlow’s other group Sebadoh. More acoustic instrumentation rears its head, but where “Love Is…” showed off a wily Mascis guitar solo, here his playing feels restrained, almost terse. There are still textures aplenty, but the idiosyncrasy of the moment leaves question marks on an otherwise strong track.

Overall, Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not sees Dinosaur Jr. making subtle tweaks to a tried and true formula. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. But the clock is ticking on referring to this phase of the band’s career as post-reunion. When you’ve already outlasted the era of your earliest rumblings and eclipsed a spell spent under a major label banner, those events soon start looking like bumps in the road of a significant career that just needed some time to grow into its current arc.

Read more by Michael Cimaomo at www.valleyadvocate.com/category/blogs/northeast-underground/

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Keith Wood and Hush Arbors: a secret it’s hard to keep quiet about

Keith Wood (Andrew Kesin)

Keith Wood (Photo credit: Andrew Kesin)

One of the many highlights of the Whole Children benefit concert held at the Calvin Theatre on June 21 was the appearance of area resident and Sonic Youth co-founder Thurston Moore.

Performing with his band Demolished Thoughts (titled after his recent solo album of the same name), Moore treated those in attendance to a festive set full of psychedelic folk jams, which frequently featured thrilling crescendos and heroic displays of acoustic guitar prowess.

However, perhaps lost in the shuffle of a night that also included appearances by fellow indie stars – Henry Rollins, Lou Barlow, and J Mascis – was the on-stage presence of musician and Demolished Thoughts band member Keith Wood (see photo).

As the primary force behind indie rock act Hush Arbors, Wood is more than just your average sideman. And after witnessing him play live, I was given new reason to revisit his most recent studio album Yankee Reality, which was released by Thurston Moore’s Easthampton-based Ecstatic Peace record label in 2009.

While I admit that I was none too blown away by the record as a whole during my first listening, I still feel now, as I did then, that many of the tracks manage to reside in a realm far above the usual dreck that typically lands on my desk next to my morning coffee (which, by the way, is far from dreck, and absolutely delicious).

For example, the song “Coming Home” ambles along nicely as a country rocker with a slight ‘60s tinge and “For While You Slept” (featuring guitar courtesy of record producer J Mascis) begins briefly with the opening riff from Tom Petty’s “American Girl” before evolving into a strident march.

“Hold out / your lovely hands/ Take this weary man,” Wood sings. And upon hearing the words it’s not difficult to picture a pair of lovers walking arm-in-arm towards the sunset.

Watch the video for Yankee Reality track “Coming Home” here:

Elsewhere, album opener “Day Before” ably sets the stage for what follows. Namely, Wood’s voice remains in the spotlight as acoustic guitars strum around him and cymbal crashes drive the tune home.

Though overall there doesn’t seem to be enough material that truly grabs a listener’s attention, as a testament to the single-minded creativity of an artist who’s not afraid to follow his own course, Yankee Reality is that rare work that manages to create a world all of its own.

Or, according to fellow musician and label mate James Jackson Toth (of Wooden Wand fame):

Yankee Reality is a credit to Keith Wood’s vast talent as a songwriter and performer, but also, stands as a shining example of his breadth of focus and versatility. How many fools out there love Merle Haggard, The Dead and Dinosaur Jr equally? I know one.”

For more information on Hush Arbors or to see future tour dates please visit www.husharbors.co.uk.

And, don’t forget to follow the Northeast Underground on Twitter @NE_Underground. Plus, check out concert footage featuring artists like Dinosaur Jr., Garland Jeffreys, and more on the Underground’s official YouTube page.

Some things never change: Dinosaur Jr. and others bring stomp and roar to Whole Children benefit concert

Dinosaur Jr (Brantley Gutierrez)

Dinosaur Jr. (Photo credit: Brantley Gutierrez)

This wasn’t your parents’ charity show.

Eschewing any “We are the world” or Bob Geldof-penned Live Aid platitudes, the Calvin Theatre in Northampton, Mass. more closely resembled a gathering of indie all-stars Tuesday night as the lineup for the Whole Children benefit concert took the stage not only to support a worthy cause, but also to play a variety of music guaranteed to keep the gathered crowd rocking late into the night.

Including both national and local favorites like Dinosaur Jr., Henry Rollins, Thurston Moore, and the Warblers, the event was also meant as a special fundraiser for the Whole Children organization in Hadley, which provides recreational, social, and enrichment programs for children and teens with disabilities.

Amherst-based garage rockers the Warblers kicked the event off shortly after 6:30 p.m. with a thundering set full of songs “without shame,” as well as others demanding “Peace Now.” Though varying little in tempo, the band (featuring J Mascis’ brother Migel on guitar) managed to earn repeated rounds of polite applause before concluding with a solo-laden finale that included a surprise appearance from J himself.

Following a quick changing of instruments, coming next to the dais as a nice interlude between two sets of rock was Sonic Youth co-founder Thurston Moore, or as he introduced himself to the crowd, “Hi. I’m Thurston. I live across the street from the Smith College campus.”

Playing with his group entitled Demolished Thoughts (after Moore’s recent solo album of the same name), which includes members from fellow Ecstatic Peace affiliates Hush Arbors and Sunburned Hand of Man, the noise-rock icon turned in a hazy yet engaging show featuring material from his newest release as well as 2007’s Trees Outside the Academy.

thurston moore (ari marcopoulos)

Thurston Moore (Photo credit: Ari Marcopoulos)

“Trippy,” one fellow concert-goer mumbled to me partway through the set. “Not just the music, but the movie too.”

Indeed, Moore came to the Calvin equipped with more than just his guitar in hand. Throughout his performance a black and white film played continually in the background of the stage, featuring numerous women dancing in slow-motion. While providing an interesting counterpoint to the mostly acoustic music being played, the movie unexpectedly stopped during the band’s last song leading to a chorus of laughter at the sight of a giant screen displaying the menu screen to an Epson movie player.

Still, for those awaiting a return to more upbeat entertainment they didn’t have to wait long.

After Moore and company left the stage to appreciative cheers, only a short interval of time passed before former Black Flag singer and compulsive world traveler Henry Rollins made his first appearance of the evening.

Though his nearly hour-long act consisted of the repeating a few of the stories usually told as part of his lengthier spoken-word engagements along with the graphic description of his first (and hopefully last) experience drinking cow urine and eating rats, perhaps Rollins’ biggest service of the night was to thank the crowd for their support of an organization like Whole Children.

Labeling himself as one of those kids who was likely “undiagnosed” in regards to possessing a social disability and who was treated instead with harsh discipline, the iconic hardcore front man preached the value of institutions that are pro-active in dealing with problems that affect children.

He said, “I thought getting a great president would change the world and it hasn’t. Now I’m starting to think changing the world begins with a bunch of mothers creating a place where children can thrive and the rest of us helping out however we can.”

Eventually, in response to repeated crowd requests to bring on the music (including at least one oddly-placed “Fuck You”) Rollins briefly left the stage only to return in minutes with the members of Dinosaur Jr. in tow for a sit-down interview before their performance.

Rollins 3 (Maura Lanahan)

Henry Rollins (Photo credit: Maura Lanahan)

While described as a success when executed for the first-time in front of a crowd the night before, the audience at the Calvin appeared to have little patience for any attempt at a formal question and answer session.

“Concentrate!” shouted one fan as J Mascis prepared to answer the first question asked him by Rollins.

From there many of exchanges between interviewer and interviewees seemed to dissolve into a series of miscommunications or misremembering by fellow band mates. Though at times difficult to hear over the heckling of the audience, the experience did provide a few priceless moments.

For example:

– After neglecting to answer several of the initial questions asked to the group, bassist Lou Barlow finally gave in to crowd prodding and said the reason for his lack of participation was due to the fact that he was more interested, “to hear what J has to say.”

– Discussing the use of vulgarities in perhaps the band’s best-known song from the Bug album “Freak Scene,” J maintained that he actually recorded a radio-friendly version of the track by muting the offensive parts even though Barlow thought he had sung alternate lyrics instead.

– Going into band history, J acknowledged that, “When you play real loud AND have no fans” it’s a recipe for disaster, and may have played a part in getting the group, “banned from every club in Northampton.”

– Reminiscing about their mutual time spent on the SST record label, drummer Murph mentioned first meeting Rollins at a particular party, which Henry claimed to have never even been present for.

– Finally, when asked if Dinosaur Jr. listened to other popular indie acts during their heyday, most responses tended towards the affirmative. However, upon mention of the Butthole Surfers Barlow gave an emphatic, “No” in regards to ever getting into such a band.

Upon finally taking the stage, Dinosaur started by playing a pair of songs (“In a Jar” and “The Wagon”) in order to warm-up before plunging into the 1988 classic Bug in its entirety.

Watch video of Dinosaur Jr. tearing into Bug opening cut “Freak Scene” live here:

Though peppered with guitar heroics and a pummeling rhythmic assault throughout, the band saved its most harrowing performance for the climatic track “Don’t.” Due to his violent singing of the song the night before, Barlow had lost most of voice and was unable to complete the number as intended. So, as a fix two guest vocalists (including one pulled from the crowd) picked up microphones to shred their own vocal chords while belting out the tune’s dark chorus of “Why? / Why don’t you like me?”

The unnamed duo certainly gave the once in a lifetime opportunity a spirited effort, but after 10+ minutes of noisy jamming they each appeared exhausted (and in dire need of throat lozenges) thanks to their time in the spotlight.

Still, the headliners weren’t finished yet. After a scant two minute break, one of the strongest power trios in underground rock history returned for an encore featuring the songs “Feel the Pain” and “Just Like Heaven.”

After a long night of music and fun, the closing numbers were just what the doctor ordered. And as the tired crowd began filing out into the still warm night, this reporter at least couldn’t but smile and think that as long as there are people like Henry Rollins, Thurston Moore, and all the members of the Warblers and Dinosaur Jr. in this world, then institutions like Whole Children have a fighting chance.

Who could ask for anything more?

For more information on Dinosaur Jr. or to see future tour dates please www.dinosaurjr.com. To learn more about Henry Rollins please visit www.henryrollins.com. And for Thurston Moore and the Warblers please visit www.sonicyouth.com and www.thewarblers.com.

Also, don’t forget to follow the Northeast Underground on Twitter @NE_Underground and check out more concert footage featuring artists like Garland Jeffreys, Stephen Kellogg and more on the Underground’s official YouTube page.

J Mascis tapped for appearance at Neil Young tribute concert

J Mascis (Photo credit: Francis Chung)

J Mascis (Photo credit: Francis Chung)

Amherst, Mass. native and Dinosaur Jr frontman J Mascis (see photo at right) has labored for years under the comparisons made between his voice and that of the legendary singer/ songwriter Neil Young. Now, according to an announcement made by the website americansongwriter.com, it appears J will get the chance to put his pipes to the test as part of a concert to honor the enigmatic Canadian himself.

The event, to be held at Carnegie Hall in New York City on February 10, also plans to feature the talents of artists Pete Yorn, Keller Williams, the Cowboy Junkies and many more. Additionally, all the proceeds from the show will be donated to non-profit organizations like the Church Street School of Music, The Pinwheel Project, and the Music Unites All-Youth Choir amongst others

Meanwhile, in other Mascis news, the silver-haired axe man is set to release his fifth solo album “Several Shades of Why” through Sub Pop Records on March 15. To download the new track “Not Enough” for free visit J’s official site here. And, for all of you who ever wondered about the possible connection made between Mascis and Uma Thurman during her time growing up in Amherst, check out this Pitchfork review of the J. Mascis and the Fog album “Free so Free”.

While I don’t know if I buy into all the connections the article makes, if the claims made are true then Thurman is responsible for inspiring some of the greatest guitar jams of the last 20 years. Sort of makes you want to forgive her for appearing in such lemons as “Paycheck” and “My Super Ex-Girlfriend” huh?

For more information on J Mascis and future tour dates please visit www.jmascis.com/.