Dinosaur Jr. still reveling in resurgence
CAMBRIDGE - You can’t really call it a reunion anymore. Four years after mending old, deep wounds (pun intended but pertinent), and two albums into their new (read: original) incarnation as a slacker-punk trio from Amherst with an appetite for feedback and sprawl, Dinosaur Jr. is back to being a very loud, very good working rock band.
It’s anybody’s guess how long this revival will last before somebody quits or gets canned. But guitarist-singer (yeah, we listed the order this way for a reason) J. Mascis, bassist Lou Barlow, and drummer Murph have all grown up and older, and maybe a little wiser, too.
They’ve also grown more gray and more bald since they first plugged in during the Reagan administration - the latter two apply in Mascis’s and Murph’s case, at least. (At 43, Barlow still looks like the lovelorn emo kid who pens self-lacerating ballads in his dorm room.)
Remarkably, the one thing that has not changed is Dinosaur Jr.’s sound and approach: Still intact is the group’s peculiar knack for alternately surging and slouching toward a sonic maelstrom and then shrugging their shoulders at the amplified heap of noise and moving on.
Downstairs at the Middle East Friday night, in the first of a pair of sold-out weekend shows kicking off the band’s two-month tour, the guys barely spoke a word to one another as they roared through “Freak Scene’’ and “Thumb,’’ and delved into a half-dozen selections from their new album, “The Farm.’’ But on-stage shtick and canned camaraderie was never the point with Dino Jr.
Murph drove the machine with muscular, fast fills that kept the momentum pushing outward. Barlow was as nervy and sneakily melodic as ever. As usual, he assumed the role of de facto frontman, chatting amiably with the crowd as Mascis placidly tuned up for the next onslaught.
Mascis takes the title as perhaps the most catatonic rock guitar hero in history. And yet, his solos - billowy blasts of searing, messy majesty - were as animated and articulate as ever, soaring over brisk new numbers like “Over It’’ and injecting older touchstones such as “Feel the Pain’’ with distortion-encrusted vitality. Dinosaur Jr. may be ancient, but it’s hardly extinct.