(photo: Levi Walton)
While it’s a really nice thought for fans, there is ample evidence that once-legendary bands should ignore the reunion circuit and keep their legacy and pride mercifully intact. While The Pixies’ latest output is one example of the half-baked production that comes from bands past their primes, the list of failed revivals is really too lengthy to go into here. There was a reason Fitzgerald said there are no second acts in American lives.
That’s why it’s so confounding — and so resoundingly uplifting — that DIY heroes Dinosaur Jr. have made some of the best music of their careers during their second go-round. Not only did the band keep playing after their initial reunion (avoiding the usual assumption that reformed groups are only in it for the cash), but they’ve produced four absolutely sterling albums since getting back together in 2005.
As far as band breakups go, Dinosaur Jr. didn’t have the acrimony of say, Oasis (who does?), but things were definitely tense during the band’s heyday in the late ’80s. Bassist Lou Barlow could never quite accept playing second-fiddle to guitar legend J. Mascis, and as a result, he was booted from the band in 1989 for insubordination.
In Barlow’s defense, he had a wealth of good tunes to offer — just peep his nearly-as-beloved follow-up act, Sebadoh — but wrestling the controls from Mascis would have made Dinosaur Jr. just a little less dynamic. Mascis’ loquacious, weary vocals and blistering, fractious guitar histrionics essentially wrote the template for indie rock, helping to create bands like Pavement, Modest Mouse, and the group’s most obvious successor, Built to Spill.
After their falling out, Mascis and Barlow have since made nice — and so much more. The group’s latest release, this year’s Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not, is an unquestionably terrific album — arguably the best of the band’s four late-career releases. It has plenty of the squealing, abrasive tunes that are the hallmark of Mascis, but there are even a couple of folkish numbers from Barlow, who is the noticeably more tender of the two.
With the group continuing to put out top-notch music, they’ve maintained a consistent touring schedule to support those efforts. Their latest jaunt will take them to San Francisco for three (!) shows at The Independent. Unfortunately, all the gigs are now sold out, but for those lucky to get tickets early (ahem, this kid), these tiny-venue performances should be transcendental.
On that note, here’s a word to the wise for those going: bring earplugs. I saw these guys at the Mezzanine in 2007 and it was the loudest fucking show I’ve ever been to (Los Angeles noise rockers No Age are the only ones who come close), but also one of the most amazing spectacles I’ve seen. It was a completely fitting summation for Dinosaur Jr.: high decibels, unforgettable experience.