One of the good things about living in Los Angeles is that occasionally a band like Dinosaur Jr. will play a free show. “Wait, free??? Are you sure it’s not the cover band, Dinosaur Jr. Jr.?” This was my first time seeing the Dinos since June 14, 1991 at the Hollywood Palladium … with Nirvana opening. Woot! FYI, I attended that gig on crutches, having had my right knee scoped two days prior. 1991: the year both punk and I broke.
Tuesday night’s gig at The Troubadour was ideal for several reasons beyond price. It was crowded, but not packed, loud, yet not deafening, and done by 11 pm. Basically, a perfect show. A geriatric mosh pit even broke out, which was great to see and totally justifiable. It was also my first time seeing the original lineup: J. Mascis (Fender Jazzmaster, Marshall stacks), Lou Barlow (bass, half as stacky), and Murph (drums). That ’91 show featured Mike Johnson on bass. Yes, for one night at least, dinosaurs ruled the earth.
It’s easy to forget how viable this band still is. Beyond and Farm are as good as any album since Where You Been (1993). Granted, the band’s songwriting and album structures are a bit formulaic — 3 midtempo:1 ballad, Mascis solos, 1-2 Lou songs — but, what’s wrong with that? No one sounds like J on guitar and Lou’s gothy songs and melodic bass perfectly complement the Mascis drawl-and-squall. And while Murph is the 2nd best drummer in the band (after Mascis), he and Barlow lock into a tight, muscular groove that allows J to ride on top with the Fender puke + cry.
Dinosaur Jr – Forget The Swan
Henry Rollins Show
It’s also easy to take for granted that Lou Barlow is in this band. Just when you’re getting Mascisized, Barlow throws down a moody, clove-smoking anthem to remind you why you also fell in love with this band. It’s like you’re listening to Dinodoh. And in hindsight, it makes sense that The Troubadour was pummelling the audience with pre-show Joy Division. Lou’s role in Dino Jr. is to write Joy Division songs, except he sings like Lou Barlow, not a Kafka-esque Fred Schneider. And you get the White Witch of Marshallstackylvania. Amps will tear us apart, yo.
“Forget The Swan” is the first song on the band’s debut album, Dinosaur. It’s fascinating to listen to the Rollins version and then the album cut. The newer version makes the original sound like the product of a moderately-interesting Cure cover band, which they kind of were. To be fair, Dinosaur was recorded within months of the band’s formation, so they were still figuring out how to be a band. As a performing unit, they’re miles ahead of where they were at the time of that recording (1985) and probably comparable to (if not better than) their Green Mind-y prime.
Dinosaur Jr – Just Like Heaven
Did someone mention Cure covers? God bless guitar pedals.
VISQUEENS OF THE SLOAN AGE
Speaking of chick rock, Seattle’s powerpoptastic Visqueen played Amoeba-Hollywood on Wednesday as a three-piece. Rachel Flotard (guitar, vocals, pure hilarity), Christina Bautista (bass, vocals, rowr), and a cellist named Barb. Maybe 6-7 songs, concluding with “So Long,” the cello-driven heartbreaker from their newish album, Message To Garcia. If you’re a fan of the Fastbacks and Muffs — and what rational person isn’t? — you’ll love the Visqueen.
Visqueen – Hand Me Down + Capitol
This video is from last year’s Bumbershoot Festival, with Tom Cummings on guitar, Ben Hooker on drums, and Seattle on rain. I know, shocking. Anyway, that’s the rock side of Viqsueen. Here’s the Visqueen who breaks hearts with cello, steel guitar, and Flotard’s killer voice.
Now’s probably a good time to mention that previous Visqueen bassists have included Kim Warnick (Fastbacks) and Ronnie Barnett (Muffs), so the connection to those two bands is less happenstance and more proper eugenics. For those of you unfamiliar with Teams Fastback and Muff, allow me to introduce.
“Also known as ‘the sixth favorite.’ Recorded at the same session as the Play Five Of Their Favorites 12” (1982), but to this day unfinished, and only a crummy cassette tape existed before now. Released (albeit briefly) as the B-side to the promo-only In America 7″. Mastered from the same crummy cassette, put out by different birdbrain with equally big ideas in Belgium. Courtesy of WIK-TUH.”
–The Question Is No liner notes, 1992
One of my favorite memories of Seattle is going to Fastbacks shows and watching the audience get so hammered that Kurt Bloch would play beer cup baseball during guitar solos. Ahhhh, the good ol’ days … that I’m only able to piece together in fragments.
Oh, Kim Shattuck, I could never quit you. Here’s the final two tracks on Blonder And Blonder, the first album featuring The Muffs (pictured right) as a three-piece: Shattuck (guitar, vocals), Barnett (bass, vocals, glasses), and Roy McDonald of Redd Kross (drums). The album title references a comment Courtney Love supposedly made about Kim’s hair at Moe’s in 1994-95. If this is true and it’s the show I’m thinking of, Courtney wobbled in late, looking like she came straight from a Fastbacks show. HEYOOOO!!!
By the way, The Muffs are playing 2 shows at SXSW! If you’re in Austin for the fest, you’d be a numbskull to miss both.