June 1, 2005 at 9:01 am #47982
hope no one’s posted this one yet … it’s an interesting read …Quote:Ã‚ Ã‚ THE SAN FRANCISCO BAY May 4 – May 10, 2005Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Vol. 39, No. 31
Bulbs of passion
J Mascis and Dinosaur Jr. plugged into the deepest fears of a generation and created a wailing, ugly, and unforgettable kind of pop rock.
By Mike McGuirk
EVERYBODY KNOWS WHO Dinosaur Jr. are, right? They were massive at one time. Just before Nirvana broke, and right after the Pixies, J Mascis’s forehead was all over MTV, and "The Wagon" and "Start Choppin’ " were huge hits.
Peekaboo: A young Lou Barlow, right, entices us with a view of his belly button in this early pic of Dinosaur Jr., with J Mascis, left, and Patrick "Murph" Murphy, center. I fucking hated what Dinosaur Jr. had become by the time they reached that level of fame, and although it seems really silly today, back then I felt like they had been one of the great tragedies of my life. The transformation of Mascis from Jesus Christ to MTV salesman with crappy songs and tinny records was such an unspeakable crime to me and my group of friends that we just acted like it wasn’t happening. We had to act like the band had never existed. We were so confused and abandoned that when Pavement came along, we thought we had found ourselves again. That’s why I bought all those Pavement records, out of confusion. I know it was that.
Anyway, Dinosaur Jr. have recently reunited, and original bassist Lou Barlow and drummer Patrick "Murph" Murphy are in the mix. Someone had the brilliant idea to re-release the group’s first three records on Merge Records, with videos included and way, way, way better sound quality than the originals. I got ahold of them and realized that I had really worshipped this band at one time. I had forgotten that.
I first heard Dinosaur Jr. in 1987, on this Homestead Records compilation titled The Wailing Ultimate. The Dinosaur song (there was no "Jr." then) "Repulsion" jumped out at me. It had big rock guitars, a guitar solo(!), and the guy’s voice cracked every two seconds and he sounded like a wimp. Also, the song was about other people being repulsed by your very presence. You could also interpret Mascis’s lyrics to mean that he himself was a loner by choice and the actions of his peer group repulsed him. It was kind of both. Either way, the whole idea was like somebody had been reading my wimp-ass diary.
I went and bought the Dinosaur record, with its creepy, ugly cover. The songs were all slow and mopey, and guitar heroics and lyrics about being a loser were the two main themes. One of the only fast ones was this hardcore/metal song called "Mountain Man" that had fucking hilarious lyrics and smokin’-hot guitar licks. I remember having a really hard time coming to terms with the fact that the music these guys were playing had elements of punk, metal, and Neil Young in equal amounts. Today I can identify bits of the Meat Puppets and Saint Vitus, and it makes sense to combine those two, but back then, not only did I not know who those bands were, but the whole idea didn’t seem legal to me, and for a long time Dinosaur’s music sounded "wrong." This is probably why it still sounds so great. Dinosaur (Homestead, 1985) is my favorite album of the three recorded by the original lineup.
Living in the ’80s
The second album, You’re Living All Over Me (SST, 1987), is heavy metal breakup music. The old copy I had couldn’t be played very loud or it’d just get muddy, but this new reissue sounds really crisp and should be played at extreme, air-rippling volume.
Pretty much any time Mascis isn’t making perfect rhymes and telepathically expressing the pathetic hopes of every nerd-loser who ever lived, he’s layering sheets of too-many-pedals guitar skronk and distortion you can taste on everything. The riffs of "Sludgefest" and "Tarpit" predate stoner metal, and "Tarpit" ends with this swirling, ragged Godzilla sound that is practically alive. "In a Jar" features Mascis’s first moment of true pop rock guitar genius, when the chorus breaks into the solo like a jet breaking the sound barrier. Lou Barlow contributes "Poledo," a Sebadoh record smashed up into one song. A lot of people who have two kids and are almost 40 say that this was the best record of the ’80s.
The last one, Bug (SST, 1988), was their big MTV break record. "Freak Scene" is pretty much Mascis’s only good song on here (except for "They Always Come" and "The Post"). And "Freak Scene" is almost too much of an anthem not to make you feel like you are just being overpowered by Mascis’s ability to write melodic hooks. Bug was a difficult thing when it came out because Mascis had pretty much taken over all the songwriting and Barlow’s only song was the best one on it: "Don’t" is a six-minute horror show of feedback and screaming, with the lyric "Why don’t you like me?" howled over and over. Back then, the feeling you got was that after this whole album of Mascis’s increasingly "perfect" songs, "Don’t" comes on and it’s like Barlow was rejecting everything Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the direction of the band and their increasing popularity.
Years later, the thing that stands out about these three albums Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and Bug most of all Ã¢â‚¬â€œ is that Mascis’s lead guitar playing is fucking violent and awesome and thank God they remastered this stuff because you can finally play the records as cripplingly loud as they were meant to be played. So forget about Green Mind and all the bad stuff that happened after somebody called Mascis a genius. They were right. They just shouldn’t have told him.
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