DINOSAUR JR. with THE BESNARD LAKES at Lee’s Palace (529 Bloor West), September 24 to 26, doors 8 pm. $34.50. HS, RT, SS, TM. See listing.
After the strained relationship between J Mascis and Lou Barlow led to the dissolution of Dinosaur Jr.'s original lineup in the late 80s, the band's reunion in 2005 was one of the unlikeliest in rock history. Even less likely: seven years later the so-called comeback is still going strong.
The breakup was the stuff of music legend. First, friendship degenerated into a not-on-speaking-terms business arrangement; then Mascis and drummer Murph kicked Barlow out of the band... or, rather, told him that Dinosaur Jr. was breaking up and headed out on tour with a replacement bassist. Barlow spent much of the next decade shit-talking his former bandmates every chance he got.
But on Tuesday (September 18), the seminal rock band that influenced grunge, sludge and shoegaze release their third post-reunion record, I Bet On Sky (Jagjaguwar). The reunion nobody thought would happen has now spawned as many albums as the original run.
But don't assume the personality conflicts have completely disappeared.
"We're still very different people," says Murph over the phone from a Portland airport. "We've just learned to compromise. We were kids then. We're all more mature now."
Dinosaur used to be all the three members had, whereas nowadays they have adult lives, children and side projects. Last year Mascis released an acoustic solo album. Barlow, meanwhile, reunited his other seminal band, 90s lo-fi college rockers Sebadoh.
As Dinosaur, they're still satisfyingly locked into its volume-11 "ear-bleeding country" mode, which Murph likens to slipping into "an old pair of shoes." Mascis still unabashedly engages in guitar heroics in an indie rock scene that's largely abandoned solos, and the power trio's still addicted to power.
But hints of those extracurricular projects have seeped in. Behind Mascis's fretboard-abusing workouts are touches of piano, acoustic guitar and even cowbell. And though Dinosaur's still a guitar band, there's a newfound production focus on Mascis's vocals.
"He was less worried about what we could play live," says Murph. "We're all better players now, so he knows that whatever we decide to do we'll be able to pull off [in concert].
"He's got a state-of-the-art recording studio in Amherst [Massachusetts]. He's constantly on his iPhone and eBay looking at amps, compressors, drum sets, whatever he can find. So his attention is on that rather than trying to teach me drum parts."