12B - The Michigan Daily - Weekend Magazine - Thursday, January 16, 2003
Dinosaur Jr. debut a synthesized classic
By Scott Serilla
Daily Music Editor
By the middle of the '80s, the first wave of
American underground music was already start-
ing to ebb. West coast punk stalwarts Black Flag
and The Minutemen were breaking up and taking
hardcore down with them. Indie's own
Minnesota twins, Husker D6 and The
Replacements, were packing their bags for the
big leagues of major labels (and in the process
making their own demises inevitable).
So we enter act two, in
which a new group of
young heroes fight to keep'
rock and roll alive and
give smart malcontents
worth listening to instead
of LA hair-metal and New
Wave's plastic synth-pop. These were the chil-
dren of '70s, kids who hadn't known punk as a
fledgling revolution or a new experiment, but as
a well-established institution. For them alt-rock
was already a given.
An offhanded comment by Kurt Cobain 10
years ago about ripping off Black Francis
insured The Pixies would get the credit they
deserved for laying the foundation for Nirvana
and their peers. He then gave props to The
Meatpuppets by covering their tunes during their
"Unplugged" set on MTV And Sonic Youth ...
well they're still around and can fend for them-
selves for all I care.
It's way too easy though to forget that the
Grunge explosion and the resulting break-
through of '90s alternative in general wouldn't
have been possible without a threesome of proto-
slackers from Massachusetts, who decided that
there was more to great rock then crunching out
three chords at hyperspeed and screaming pseu-
Out of the ashes of the little later hardcore out-
fit Deep Wound came the sonic
fury of Dinosaur Jr., a contradic-
tion of a band who loved early
the punk and classic rock equally
:ault (because punk was already classic
to them, a linear part of the past
instead of a reaction against).
J. Mascis, bassist Lou Barlow and drummer
Murph were three freaks who didn't fit into the
conventional punk world. Together they fused a
blunt-ended force of hardcore, the guilty pleas-
ure of old school heavy metal, the arty white
noise of Sonic Youth and Neil Young's melodic
grunge rock, complete with country and folk
Their 1987 classic "You're Living All Over
Me", their debut for legendary label SST, is
remarkable for two enduring reasons. First, it
is the synthesis of almost everything that
came before, the whole history of rock.
Sixteen years later you still can't label it.
Greatness always defies classification and
standing above genres.
The second reason is that Mascis single-hand-
edly saves the guitar solo for the indie masses.
The album is packed from start to finish with
jaw-dropping, cathartic explosions that re-intro-
duced obsolete effects like the wah-wah pedal to
alt-lingo. Famously un-communicative and cata-
tonic everywhere but on stage, J made ear-bleed-
ingly loud explosions of riffs that made a gener-
ation of players feel pathetic and inferior by
comparison. The scathing opening of pre-grunge
masterpiece "Sludgefest" and the sudden break-
down in the middle of "Raisans" revealing
Mascis as a genius of his instrument.
Barlow and Murph meanwhile locked into
furious, extra-tight punk rhythms a la Husker
Du, carrying their share of the melodic weight
on the surprisingly pop "In a Jar" and literally
slashing out to be heard. over Mascis' assault on
the Barlow penned "Lose."
Dinosaur Jr. was one of the most internally
conflicted groups in rock history. Barlow grew to
hate Mascis for the control he held over him and
Murph. Their feud boiled over eventually and
Barlow left to form Sebadoh and Folk Implosion,
both of which are in the vain of his "Poledo," a
mix of bedroom folk and a "Revolutionary #9"-
Courtesy of SST Records
ish experimental collage.
But the key track on "You're Living All Over
Me" is the brilliant, half-tongue-in-cheek Peter
Frampton cover "Show Me The Way." There
couldn't be a more uncool choice for an indie
band; but Dinosaur Jr. finds something deeper
than pure kitsch laughs in the track. Mascis
whines out the lyrics of the '70s suburban
touchstone like they might actual hold meaning
for him. For reasons that are beyond explana-
tion, they somehow do.
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FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Senator Dang Quang Minh
of the National Liberation
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tors: "When a person is not
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A look at the
underside of U of M
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