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Music Review: Dinosaur Jr. – Chocomel Daze (Live 1987)

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Long before their memorable golf-themed “Feel The Pain” video became a hit on MTV in the mid-1990s, Dinosaur Jr. cemented themselves as influential alt-rock icons with albums such as 1987’s You’re Living All Over Me and 1988’s Bug. Late last year, Merge Records commemorated the 25th anniversary of You’re Living All Over Me by releasing a show recorded during the legendary loud Boston, MA trio’s first ever European tour, in the Netherlands, entitled Chocomel Daze (Live 1987).

The problem with this release is that it amounts to a fan-recorded bootleg. And though it thankfully does not capture what was then a growing tension between guitar maestro/singer J. Mascis and bassist Lou Barlow, it also does not represent the band at its peak. Instead, in front of a small but friendly crowd in Amsterdam, you get Mascis, Barlow and Murph performing a little too loosely and (sometimes clumsily) through material from 1985 debut album Dinosaur and YLAOM—five from the former and six from the latter.

Case in point is opening track “Severed Lips,” where Mascis’s yearning clean guitar strums and the band’s overall sound gets muffled and heavily distorted through the first minute. The trio seemed to be ready to end the normally 4:00-long song around the 6:30 mark, but weren’t in sync—after fucking around a bit, they ended it at last, nearly 30 seconds later. They got more focused as the show continued, however.

On YLAOM, Mascis exploits the absurdity of noisy sound one can generate with the combination of a high level of amplifier gain/distortion and a wah-wah pedal on “Tarpit.” Depending on your tolerance level, it can be cool-sounding or just too noisy for your ears. On this live release, he shortens up the length of the wah-wah madness but adds some cool, jet-sounding flange to his ear-shredding arsenal of sound. Other highlights include “Gargoyle” and hard rockin’ (and feedback-laced) show closer “Sludgefeast.”

For Dinosaur Jr. fans looking for an eye-opening revelation into this era of one of the most influential bands in alternative rock history, this 11-track live release will be a disappointment for the most part. Though the group had its moments here, clearly, the band could’ve been tighter, and the sound quality is at the level of shows you or your older brother probably taped on his Sony Walkman (cassette recorder) in the pre-Napster/YouTube age of the ’80s and ’90s.

Is this really the best quality sounding show Merge and Dinosaur Jr. could find from this European tour? I hope not. I look forward to a much better representation of a young Dinosaur Jr. in concert being released to the masses some day.

Chocomel Daze is on sale digitally at Amazon.com for $5.00 now, and for that price, it’s a bargain and definitely worth your money. But for fans looking to get their Dino Jr. fill, I recommend checking out their pretty excellent latest album, I Bet On Sky.

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About Charlie Doherty

Copy editor/content writer for Penn Multimedia; print/web journalist/freelancer, formerly for Boston Examiner, EMSI, Demand Media, Brookline TAB, Suite 101 and Helium.com; co-head sports editor & asst. music editor at Blogcritics Magazine; Media Nation independent newspaper staff writer, printed/published by the Boston Globe at 2004 DNC (Boston, MA); Featured in Guitar World May 2014. See me on twitter.com/chucko33, myspace.com/charlied, & Facebook.