I planned to review the show. I really did. But sometimes that’s just not what comes out. It was a good show, though…
It was really cool watching J Mascis walk out and plug in; he looks like such an amiable guy, despite what banished/reinstated bassist Lou Barlow might say to the contrary. And as J started singing, and as the nonconformist wall of sound beamed over the crowd, I suddenly didn’t wonder even slightly why my generation has been branded with the X that marks the slacker. J is the epitome of unrealized talent, a dude who could sing but it’s cooler to not really, who can wail on guitar but just does enough to get by. He is what the less-naturally-gifted Stephen Malkmus has gradually and deliberately surpassed through simple effort.
THIS is what we gen-Xers were supposed to aspire to? Falling ass-backwards into the only thing we can do, hoping nobody notices we could be doing it better? Hell, everyone I knew in college was suckered into it at least a little bit. Society OWED us, man, and if Dinosaur Jr. could make something of itself, so could, um, the dude down the hall, he knows this guy who has a drum kit and we could practice in the music room of O’Donnell Hall for free.
We’re all artists when we’re stoned. As the 90s wore on, everybody from Kurt to Billy Joe was hailed as the new King of Apathy, successor to the throne of a guy none of the grunge kids had even heard of. But whereas Kurt stood for stuff, J could barely justify not sitting down; he stands for “doesn’t that sound fucking cool, man?”
And who could blame him? It’s almost 2010, and look where it’s gotten him. His new album, Farm, sounds as fresh as any indie-world-freak-folk-post-shitgaze album of the past decade. Timeless? No, just too pervasive to reject. Dinosaur Jr. made it okay to not care how you sound but not be punk rock, to get up there and stroke yourself off without actually expending any effort. The people who claim him as a hero are mainly those who are grateful that he lowered the standard. As a result, rock music has disappeared in this decade, and Dinosaur Jr. has returned from extinction to find it has no natural enemies.
It sounds like I’m ripping, but I’m not. I love that J brought unabashed pop to the underground, while somehow convincing critics that he was edgy. I love that his sorry excuses for guitar solos made guitar solos okay for Nirvana. I love that he has crafted some of the greatest guitar hooks of my generation just by getting baked and letting his mind wander. He’s the manifestation of all the dumb ideas that didn’t work out for me and my friends.
The abandon with which he allows his equipment to play itself…it is art. And the joy he gets from it is real. And it’s fun to watch the emos of the week attempt to manufacture that laziness and inevitably fail. They haven’t got the obliviousness for it. He is so not the genius he's cracked up to be. But with Mascis onstage, playing a flagrantly unrehearsed lead, if you like the sound of the electric guitar, you’re smiling.