Floppy fringes, form an orderly queue...
Zoe Street 2005-04-01
The messy post-punk glory that is Dinosaur Jr. is back to shake us up with a fistful of reissues -Dinosaur, You're Living All Over Me and Bug - after nearly 20 years of relative obscurity. Even if this warped threesome, spawned from the same strange planet as Sonic Youth, didn't capture the mainstream imagination during the glitz-sodden 1980s, they left an indelible mark on a bevy of bands that appeared in their mighty wake.
They beat Seattle to it with their early brand of grunge. God forbid, but had there been no Dinosaur Jr, we would surely have had no Nirvana: Cobain's sweet, dirty vocals often sound like a direct homage to Dinosaur Jr. You don't need to listen hard for comparisons with the Pixies either, particularly with Lou Barlow's thundersome bass (maybe it's a Massachusetts thing) and the blistering guitar solos from J Mascis that never fail to excite.
Dinosaur nears American post-punk perfection, with Mascis shouting from the pit of his soul, as only he can, and a blatant, spectacular nod to the prog-rock axe heroes of the 1970s. "Bulbs Of Passion" is a highlight of this dark, multi-faceted album; it's a damaged, beautiful jewel of a song, exposing a scarred sensitivity that haunts and clings.
Also on offer on Dinosaur is a woolly, distorted live version of "Does It Float", crackling with ferocious urgency. The iffy sound complements the imperfect appeal of Dinosaur Jr: it's like overhearing a disturbing secret. If you like hearing a man shriek as if being swallowed by the jaws of hell itself, this is for you.
You're Living All Over Me displays a glossier Dinosaur Jr, but with the same vibrant mix of aggression, joy and pain smeared over their unique sound. "Sludgefeast" is a fascinating journey into scuzz at its most melodic. Meanwhile, the unearthly "Poledo" will spook you out for sure. This compelling track keeps its distance, like a weird apparition that you can't help staring at.
In the final album, Bug, the possibly subliminal influence that Dinosaur Jr. had on early, blossoming Britpop is obvious: while "Budge" and "Yeah We Know" have more than a smidgen of The Charlatans about them, the Stone Roses ought to write a thank you letter to Bug-era Dinosaur. Floppy fringes, form an orderly queue.
Frighteningly ahead of their time, they confused a lot of people and furrowed many a brow at first. Hopefully, we're ready for them now. Snub them at your peril, these gents have a hell of a lot to answer for.