Living All Over You: The Legacy of Dinosaur Jr.

Dinosaur Jr.’s second album, You’re Living All Over Me, was released in 1987, and by 1991, had inspired a bunch of bands to create some pretty crappy music, just like late 80s albums from The Melvins and The Pixies did. I’m not talking about the 1991 albums by Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Those albums were actually pretty good. I’m talking about the bands and albums that followed them. The albums by the NickleCreedStaindBacks that clogged up the airwaves circa 1995-2005 are what I’m referring to. The thick sludgy guitars and slacker vocals that sounded like they were recorded in some local delinquent’s garage would eventually become studio washed and polished and the everyman mug of the likes of J. Mascis would be replaced by the heavily makeuped visages of poster boys like Scott Stapp. Yeah, looks like we have Mascis to thank for some of the worst music ever made. Thanks a lot, man…

… but, as is the case with freedom of speech as well as a free press and media, you have to tolerate the bad to allow the good to shine through, and Dinosaur Jr. ended up inspiring much more great music than they did bad. Without Dinosaur Jr. ( and The Melvins, and The Pixies) we might be living through the 3rd or 4th generation of hair metal. Think about that for a second. Yeah, I’ll tolerate a little NickleCreedStaindBack, so I don’t have to listen to MotleyDefWarrantCrue amalgamations anymore. (I don’t count bands like The Darkness or The Struts in the post-hair group of poseurs. There’s too much good ol’ 90s irony in their stuff to technically be considered hair metal).

Like The Melvins and The Pixies, Dinosaur Jr. have met with only moderate mainstream success over the years. J. Mascis isn’t as hot, I assume, as Cobain was or tortured as Vedder (I also assume), but damn can he play the guitar. J. “Don’t Compare Me to Neil Young” Mascis has more in common with Neil Young than Pearl Jam ever had or ever will as far as guitar sound and style of playing is concerned. So who’s really the godfather of grunge? Neil might have that title pretty much locked up, but Mascis is worthy of the title of Uncle Grunge if anything. Right? More poppy than The Melvins and not as loopy as The Pixies, Dinosaur Jr. fizzes somewhere between The Lemonheads and My Bloody Valentine-two more bands directly descended from, or at least psychically related to, Dinosaur Jr.

Who needs mainstream success though? Even if Dinosaur Jr. tasted a little bit of it with “Feel The Pain” off their 1994 grunge coattail riding album Without a Sound. Speaking of irony, if you didn’t catch the irony, no sarcasm, in that last sentence then you probably should stop reading now, because you’re probably one of those bandwagoners who actually thought that Dinosaur Jr. really was a Nirvana coattail rider. Oh dear reader (if you’re still there), the truth in that statement is actually the reverse. Although, the Dinosaur Jr. that some of you met just a few paragraphs ago was not quite the same band by 1994 that it was when You’re Living All Over Me was released. Yes, Dinosaur Jr. went through some lineup changes as well as some rocky periods, even ceasing to exist for a while. Rest assured though, the original line up is back together, and has been for a while now, and even has released several albums that harken back to their original sound, including 2016’s brilliant Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not. At least that’s what the music industry shills say in just about every review of a new Dinosaur Jr. release since something like 2006.

Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not actually does harken back to Mascis’ DIY rock roots, but is a much more complete sounding album, like all the albums released have been since the reunion with Murph (drums), and Lou Barlow (bass, vocals). Unlike Without a Sound, that had disjointed moments like the jarring “Grab It”(a song that really didn’t flow with the rest of the album) and the equally out of place folksy ballad “Outta Hand,” Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not ironically does just what its title suggests. By expanding upon Dinosaur Jr.’s unique guitar driven pop-punk rock that’s perfect for moving (skating, biking, running, etc) to with “Tiny” and returning to the sludgy, grungy guitar chords in “I Walk for Miles” that Dinosaur Jr.helped to popularize three decades ago, Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not shows us exactly what Dinosaur Jr. isn’t: a J. Mascis solo act. They are a band that is going through the best songwriting period of their career.

I have to admit that I’m doing a bit of shilling here myself. It’s for a much more worthy cause than that of the regular run of the mill reviewer  though. I actually like Dinosaur Jr.’s music AND legacy. I’m not just jonesing for the hipster points I might get from some pimply faced kid who just ran across his dad’s scratched up compact disc copy of Bug (and who’s reading this). I’m championing a band that isn’t all that commercially popular, but carry more alt-rock cred than Chris Cornell’s shorn locks, and the opportunity to do so awards me more personal hipster points than anyone else could. Of course, if Mascis, or Murph, or Lou Barlow read this and laugh, or even smile, at my inane attempt at my own little display of expository hero worship for one of the best bands of a generation…well, then my work here is done. Thanks for living all over us Dinosaur Jr. for all this time.

See Dinosaur Jr. at the Neighborhood Theatre with Cloud Nothings on Sept. 10th and see if Mascis gives us that smile.

 

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