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Dino Jr. cranks it

Turner Hall, Milwaukee, November 19, 2009

Reviewed by Andy Turner

If a true guitar hero-led band is to measure the success of a performance by how intensely audience members' ears are ringing the next day, then tip-top job, Dinosaur Jr., you killed. J. Mascis and the boys brought the noise - and their Marshall stacks - and buzz bombed ears big and small. Reunited, and it hurts so bad.

Of course, aural assaults are nothing new for Mascis, bassist Lou Barlow and drummer Murph, who reformed the original band lineup in 2005; it's a service guarantee for the alternative music legends. But the band has always had more than loudness to offer and this sweaty trip through its back catalog up to its latest effort, "Farm," proved that point again and again.

For much of the night, unfortunately, the sound was a little off, with Mascis' distinctively creaky vocals buried too far in the mix, causing a few songs to blend into each other. Nevertheless, the power of songs such as the sweetly sailing Get Me from "Where You Been" or the new should-be-hit Over It could not be obscured.

Music vets and four years into a second go-around, the band is an incredibly tight and relentless machine. Barlow, far and away, is the most active, an intensely passionate player and punk-true believer who early into the show had soaked his shirt through with sweat (on a late November night in Milwaukee). Mascis, with white-gray hair and a Wipers T-shirt, took a mostly stationary approach save for occasional rocking back and forth on his feet or the hair whipping that accompanies some guitar solos. Locked-in Murph offers effortless cool and skill.

There was a minimal amount of interaction with the audience or between band members. This seemed mostly to come from a get-down-to-business approach, and hey, it's not like they play with their backs to the audience a la early Jesus & Mary Chain. Even still, the level of like between band members will always be a question for Dinosaur Jr. It's nice then to see the goofy video for Over It in which Mascis, Murph and Barlow are presented as skateboard and bicycle badasses and appear to be having a swell time in the process.

And while everyone probably had a Dinosaur Jr. nugget or three that they wished had been played (No Just Like Heaven? Darn it, who cares if it's actually a Cure song?), the large crowd seemed to have a very swell time of its own.



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