VIDEO: Dinosaur Jr, "Been There All the Time"
J Mascis hates Lou Barlow. And the feeling is mutual. Well, maybe “hate” is too strong. Let’s just say they’ve learned to tolerate each other. And there was more than a decade of bad blood between the two members of Dinosaur Jr. before they got to that point. The drama began in 1989, when Mascis, Dinosaur Jr.’s guitarist/frontman, booted Barlow from the band. (Drummer Murph stayed on until 1993.) Barlow responded by making Sebadoh his full-time gig, writing the acerbic tune “The Freed Pig,” and referring to his old bandmate as a “pedal-hopping . . . dinosaur” in “Gimme Indie Rock.” Yet Dinosaur Jr. are back, and poised to have their biggest year yet, with a new album on Fat Possum/Epitaph (Beyond) and a new DVD (Live in the Middle East). They even signed on to perform at Urban Outfitters as part of a multi-city “FreeYrRadio” promotion sponsored by Toyota and designed to boost interest in college radio. Dino Jr. played the Boston gig a week ago Monday, and they didn’t look like a band in turmoil.
“I wouldn’t say we’re friends, exactly,” says Mascis of Barlow. “Not that we ever were friends. We were just the only people [in mid-’80s Amherst] into the kind of music that came out back then — first hardcore, then the stuff that came after.”
Barlow, who had success with the Folk Implosion as well as Sebadoh, has a slightly different take on the situation. “Apparently, I was annoying.”
But two years ago, Mascis reacquired the master rights to the first three Dino albums and reissued them on Merge. When Barlow and Mascis ended up on a bill with Sonic Youth in Northampton around the same time, they agreed to bury the hatchet and put the original line-up back together.
The old Dino roar was back at Urban Outfitters, just as it is on Beyond. It was like 1988 all over again — angst and ennui delivered at maximum volume. Barlow tossed earplugs out to the grateful few up front. The long-and-gray-haired Mascis didn’t quite smile or emote, but he seemed in the zone with his guitar swaying gently side-to-side. Any banter was initiated by Barlow, who praised Boston’s college-radio scene and joked with the full house of 450, “It’s kinda like a real show. C’mon!”
Even Murph has trouble accounting for the band’s drama-free reunion. “It’s hard for us to answer questions like that. We’re not the kind of band to analyze ourselves too much. It’s partly chemistry. J drums and writes his songs with Lou and me in mind. We have a formula that works.”
Barlow sees it as “a practical move on J’s part. We’re all 20 years older, and there’s a lot of water under the bridge. And at the end of the last tour, it became apparent we needed to learn new songs and write a new record.”
The usually reticent Mascis agrees, and he cites an epiphany of sorts. “I kind of like playing more now than I ever have. Not sure why. I remember talking to Sonic Youth when I was younger, and Thurston Moore said he really liked playing and I was perplexed by it. Now, I understand it. I don’t know if I ever enjoyed anything before . . . ”