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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
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 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Dinosaur Jr
Dinosaur/You're Living All Over Me/Bug
Merge Records

Rating: 0/10 ?

April 13, 2005
RATING: 6-9-8/10, Respectively

"It would be hard to find a band that was so unimpressed with itself. We didn't have any sycophants, we didn't have anybody keeping a scrapbook… we didn't care." In a recent interview that I conducted with Lou Barlow, one of the founding members of Dinosaur Jr who would go on to please the indie-sloppy '90s with Sebadoh, Sentridoh, Folk Implosion and more, he spoke extensively about his former group. Such a statement is a good window into the music of this band that launched a thousand bands.

Utterly unimpressed with their times, yet profoundly a part of them, these first three records released in 85, 87, and 88 aren't afraid to mix a lengthy guitar solo into their sludgy morass of slack-rock. Talking about this music as "slacker"-oriented seems trite these days, but the feeling cannot be denied, and hey, it's all about the context.

The ingredients were in perfect proportion: J. Mascis' fuzzed-out guitar, full of noise and wrath and emotion and melody, his voice all whine and reason; Lou Barlow's almost lead-guitar style basslines, also heavy on the fuzz; Murph's tight but cacophonous thunder drums keeping the pace but never rushing it... all the elements combining to make Dinosaur Jr that classic that they would become.

Born from the ashes of Lou and J.'s hardcore band, Deep Wound, Dinosaur Jr was a band on the forefront of "alternative" music, before the term ever existed. Along with bands like Pavement and Smashing Pumpkins, they came to represent the musical tastes of mid-'90s alterna-teens who wore their stickers proudly on their Trapper Keepers. It's funny how little resemblance Dinosaur bore to bands of their ilk, although there's definitely a branch extending forth upon which the leaves of Pavement, Built to Spill, and others can be found.

But Dinosaur's music was as much Black Sabbath as it was The Fall, as much simple punk and hardcore as it was prog or 70s rock: two opposing forces, the decadence of "rock" rock and the minimalist backlash of punk rock working hand in hand.

Their self-titled debut will induce the pleasure principle in droves for many, although its undeveloped ruggedness places it in a pantheon a bit lower than Living and Bug, which are 99 percent quality with next to no filler. Listening to all three in order, the development of the band, as well as J.'s increasing control, is impossible not to notice. Of course, mixed in with the much discussed feuding of J. and Lou, it becomes that much more evident.

Punk power chords rushing along under a Nugent solo didn't seem disparate at the time, at least in J.'s head, and it still doesn't now, nearing 20 years later - an unbelievable statement in and of itself.

There are the unforgettables: "Forget the Swan," the messy progression of a young band just discovering the world beyond punk; "Little Fury Things," with it's amazing slow-burn vocal melody hot on the heels of hardcore fuzz-screams; the refreshing cover of The Cure's "Just Like Heaven," a tribute and a fuck-you all at once; "Freak Scene," a cathartic transfer of maturity and lazy sound; even Barlow's hint of things to come in excruciatingly experimental excursions like "Poledo."

Byron Coley provides the extensive and engaging liner notes for the records, with contributions from the likes of Robert Pollard, filmmaker Allison Anders, and Mike Watt. Also included are several music videos, but if you're looking for B-sides and outtakes, this isn't the right place.

And so, as Merge reissues these classic albums and releases Lou Barlow's first proper solo at the same time, an irony that does not go unnoticed by Barlow, Dinosaur Jr is set to return to the stage for several reunion shows. While not on the scale of the Pixies, or maybe even Slint, this one's got the kids chomping at the bit, indie-rock Pavlovian responses set to full salivation. According to Barlow, they're not gonna be writing any new songs or making a career out of it - though it will be financially lucrative - they're mostly doing it because they want to. They've got to re-learn the songs, and get the energy moving again, but it should be an interesting reunion, for both long-time fans as well as newcomers.

Reviewed by Jonah Flicker
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.

See other reviews by Jonah Flicker



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