Tag Archives: J Mascis

245. Dinosaur Jr – “Where you Been”

Fear not, I still have some more (!) DiFranco action, but here’s some rock’n’roll to appease my (and your?) restless soul.

Unlike on Bug, Dinosaur Jr launched this album out into a post-Nirvana world and on a major label.  That’s sort of interesting in a historical sense, but what it means to the listener is very little.

All that really matters is that the production levels have skyrocketed, Lou Barlow has been kicked out of the band (and is now off Sebadohing), and we are really getting J Mascis is pretty much solo mode. So, that means loads of guitar work, and those lazy stoner vocals.

It all works pretty sweetly.  This is a much for more public-friendly version of the band’s sounds, with no vocal histrionics to scar off the uninitiated .  If anything the sound here is much closer to the more electric Neil Young-stuff (sorry, I’m far from an expert/fanboy in explained which part of his much-storied career).

Mascis has one of the voices that sucks me in, fractured and wavering over lyrics that sound profound even if they probably aren’t.  This still feels like the soundtrack to some mid-90s film about useless, self-absorbed, pontificating slackers (folks that might be bloggers now?).  And this tune would be over the opening credits:

File under: Going the right direction


242. Dinosaur Jr – “Bug”

Given the next Ani DiFranco album is another double, I’m skipping forward and grabbing one of the older and well-worn records in my collection.

I would have heard the Freak Scene single off this album in 1988 some time, and eventually found a vinyl copy of the associated album (this was before I owned a CD player).

I then spent many days immersed in the contrasting waves of screaming guitar and typically lazy/cosy vocals. This was when I really saw what guitar-based indie rock could be.

It has been a pleasure to dive back into this. Freak Scene is as catchy as ever, with J Mascis’ drawled vocals chronicling the slacker ethos beautifully.

The guitar work on this album was and is revelatory. If future humans (or aliens) want to know what could be done with those strange devices (and in particular the associated pedals) this album would be a great insight and showcase.

I saw a quote from the band noting that they were fans of death metal and the mid-80s Paisley Rock scene. That sums the sound up perfectly. The guitars wail and jangle in equal measure. Lou Barlow screams his lungs out on the closer (Don’t), yet at other times the vocals are classic indie-op (reminiscent of Smudge‘s Tom Morgan).

This is classic stuff that I’m in love with again. Relish this video:

File under: I’m buggin’!

197. The Cure – “Greatest Hits”

The Cure occupy a curious spot in pop music history. They somehow retain pseudo-alternative credibility, while pumping out what is pretty mainstream New Romantic material.

Album Cover Cure The Greatest HitsPerhaps we were all distracted by the dishevelled persona of Robert Smith with his quirky mix of edginess and vulnerability.

Irrespective, this collection showcases their capacity to deliver hit after hit. The band did progress over their career, moving from a more synth-heavy approach (think Duran Duran or Japan) to more jangly, layered guitars (James or Wonderstuff).

At their best the band is hard to fault. Gems like Let’s Go To Bed, The Lovecats, Why Can’t I Be You and Close to Me are catchy as all hell, built around Smith’s hiccupy vocals, basslines worth wiggling to, and horn blasts screamed out for mouth-trumpet-alongs.

The standout track is the justifiably lauded Just Like Heaven. Of course, the Dinosaur Jr version topped the original, but you can see why J Mascis was inspired.

Speaking of inspiration, there is a certain music-geek-delight in discovering that the band’s Friday I’m in Love has become a big enough cultural icon to inspire its very own t-shirt. The song deserves it and your record collection deserves this this album.

File under: Good for what ails ya

110. Buffalo Tom – “Buffalo Tom”

Looking back at the list of reviews so far, I reckon Buffalo Tom are the third act thus far that I have owned a t-shirt in honour of. In fact, I have worn out two tees from this Boston trio. Both were purchased at gigs in the mid 90s, presumably when they toured albums 3 & 4.

buffalo-tom-album-cover-debut-self-titledIt was album three that lured me (and many others) to this mob’s guitar-heavy indie-rock. I subsequently picked up this earlier work.

The debut reveals yet another band that was born pretty much fully-formed. The core sounds and approach are there for all to hear. Bill Janovitz’s voice is powerful and distinctive. The drums are pounding. The guitar buzzes and squeals in Dinosaur Jr-like majesty.

This last comparison is worth pursuing. J Mascis from said band produced this album. The guitar runs free on here perhaps more than on the band’s later works. The mix is a little dirtier too. Janovitz’s voice is the distinguishing characteristic – it lacks Mascis’ laconic drawl and is closer to Bob Mould’s (without the straining).

In the end what is lacking here is a killer single or two. The songwriting is still a bit weak and hackneyed.

File under: Nowhere near as ugly as the cover art