For a man who so famously doesn’t like playing the guitar, J. Mascis does so with incredible fervour. As the opening chords of ‘The Lung’ lurch into existence with an unexpected vitality I almost have to wonder whether Neil Young et al. would, upon considering Dinosaur Jr’s case, re-evaluate their stance on burning out vs fading away.
Although some may argue that Mascis and co have managed to do both simultaneously since their inception in 1984; having originally called it a day in 1997 after a series of line-up changes and minor implosions, the original Lou Barlow/Murph/J line-up remerged in 2005 to create 3 more albums. And no, not just the kind of albums produced by misty eyed nostalgic and flagging bank accounts, but the kind of albums produced by genuine artistic drives that offer up close career bests. Their latest I Bet On Sky being one very such offering.
I suppose their kind of fading away is less about fading and more about burning brighter for longer, and for a band who have been mimicked and re-appropriated to death by legions of well meaning revivalists, this is no mean feat. They manage to do so of course quite simply because the original formula is and always will be theirs and even the least discerning listener can tell the difference between the real deal and a cheap knock off, or at least they certainly would be able to by the end of tonight’s outing.
Any personal misgivings about The Electric Ballroom’s capacity to deal with the sheer amount of distortion and feedback about to be thrown its way are silenced within seconds or, probably more accurately, deafened. Bug number ‘Budge’ and Green Mind highlight ‘The Wagon’ are just about as perfect as we could have hoped for – filling the underground arches with warm scuzzy guitars, Mascis’s trademark hooks, and hundreds of thrilled faces on an almost unexpected high.
Melodic and riff heavy I Bet The Sky offerings ‘Watch the Corners’ and ‘Rude’ sit perfectly alongside the legendary howls of ‘Feel The Pain’ and the unmistakable dynamism of alt.rock stalwart ‘Freak Scene’. We knew it would be good, but we did not know it would be this good. But then I guess if ten studio albums and three decades of touring can teach you anything, it’s how to put a show together. Peppering the entire thing with expertly timed sarcastic remarks is probably something they learnt all by themselves. “School sucks” Barlow sneers, as if no one had ever uttered that phrase, before launching into nihilistic abrasive frenzy of ‘Training Ground.’ Mascis, as ever, remains the more endearing creator.
“What song would you like to hear that we’re not gonna play?” Barlow sniggers as the band return for the encore, but whatever you think about his faux cocky remarks, nothing demands immediate forgiveness like a cover of ‘Just Like Heaven’, which soon descends in a bloody, messy, dirty, glorious rendition of ‘Sludgefeast.’ And that is exactly how Dinosaur Jr leave us feeling.
We’ll take their version of fading away over burning out any day of the week.
Watch The Corners
Feel The pain
Little Fury Things
Just Like Heaven