Magazine article The New Yorker

Night Life

Magazine article The New Yorker

Night Life

Article excerpt



The members of Dinosaur Jr. find essential noise in the space between them.

THE IMPERSONAL ORIGIN STORY OF Dinosaur Jr. might have foreshadowed the band's icy tenure. In 1984, Joseph (J) Mascis, Jr., responded to a flyer he saw at Main Street Records, in Northampton, Massachusetts, looking for players for a new punk band. Deep Wound, as the outfit was called, disbanded that same year, and Mascis poached the drummer Emmett Jefferson (Murph) Murphy III and the bassist Lou Barlow for a noisy, minimal rock trio called Dinosaur.

Dinosaur's formative era brimmed with heavy, emotive rock--Sonic Youth, the Cure, the Meat Puppets--and the recent high-school graduates were eager to ape their heroes. These influences show up across their self-titled debut album, released in 1985 to almost no fanfare. But it was Mascis's experimentation that stood out: he strung together various pedals and amps to give his guitar a muddy wail, and, nearly a decade ahead of grunge's North American ascendance, the record writhed with the kind of low-slung stacked riffs and cantankerous vocals that by 1991 would make a star of a kid from Aberdeen, Washington, named Kurt. "The world drips down like gravy / the thoughts of love so hazy," Mascis sings on "Repulsion," the college-radio killer that bursts out at dead center from a track list of otherwise middling hardcore and folk. Their original blend of sounds may have been the result of home-studio exhibitionism and guileless youth, but with the successful follow-ups "You're Living All Over Me" and "Bug," Dinosaur Jr. (renamed after a lawsuit following their second album) nodded toward disparate strands of rock, from grunge to noise, across formats and radio dials.

Yes, Dinosaur Jr. broke up. Many bands do. By 2005, nearly a decade after Barlow and Mascis's frequent standoffs boiled over and split the band (tasking Murphy with years of mediation), the trio reunited for a series of shows and, in 2007, released "Beyond," the first of several new records. They don't enjoy the nostalgic adoration many of their peers do, and their sound has long since receded from its peak commercial relevance. But there is a certain pragmatism to Dinosaur Jr.'s reunion: a sense that the three men have recognized that their gift and their bond are bigger than their individual interests, a rare level of self-understanding. For a week at Bowery Ballroom, starting Dec. 3, they'll revisit "Dinosaur," performing the entire record in celebration of the album's thirty-year anniversary. They are not best friends, or brothers--Mascis has described them as something closer to "distant cousins"--but, once again, they're bandmates.


Musicians and night-club proprietors lead complicated lives; it's advisable to check in advance to confirm engagements.

Car Seat Headrest

In the song "Something Soon," the singer-songwriter Will Toledo plots to kick his father in the shins, and shortly after admits that he can't talk to his folks. It's a shame, as a conversation might prove fruitful: Toledo employs words so effectively across the material he records as Car Seat Headrest that one imagines a simple talk might eliminate the need for interfamilial violence. He has self-released hours of muted, needling indie-rock songs, and betrays a shameless affection for sunny sixties pop--on "No Passion," one of the bedroom demos repackaged by the covetable label Matador on this fall's "Teens of Style" album, the rays bleed through an overcast of monotone and reverb. (Baby's All Right, 146 Broadway, Brooklyn. 718-599-5800. Dec. 5.)

Kid Cudi

Before the worlds of hip-hop and electronic music intermingled without friction, this young rapper from Cleveland carved new space with self-released singles and mixtapes that were atypical both in sound (melodic, sparse, downtrodden) and circumstance (he was catalyzed by music blogs and social media and unconcerned with traditional music outlets). …

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