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Alternative and Indie

Dinosaur Jr.

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Hugely influential, speaker destroying indie rock trio

Dinosaur Jr were originally just plain old Dinosaur, losing their seniority when an old psych rock group laid claim to the name. Formed by J Mascis (first on drums, then guitar and vocals), Lou Barlow (bass) and the mononymous Murph on drums, the Massachusetts trio borrowed as much from Neil Young as hardcore punk to become one of the most influential indie bands of the ’80s and ’90s. Mascis, in particular, became an unlikely guitar hero, reclaiming the art of the solo from axe-shredding hair metal bands.

The band released a sludgy, unformed debut under their original moniker, but it was the speaker-devouring noise of their 1987 rebirth, You’re Living All Over Me, that let the world know what Dinosaur Jr were all about. With lashings of feedback, Mascis’s drowsy drawl, oppressive noise and hooks meaty enough to battle their way to the surface, the band stood out among from their peers. The album couldn’t be defined as a hit but it soon earned its place as one of the defining albums of a new movement in guitar bands.

The following year, the single Freak Scene captured a very particular zeitgeist, paving the way for another flawless album of slacker squall: 1988’s Bug. However, Barlow and Mascis’s relationship had been strained from the beginning and the band split up in 1989. Barlow went his own way with Sebadoh, while Mascis just reformed Dinosaur Jr without him.

The Barlow-less Dinosaur Jr remained quiet while Mascis went about producing similarly minded bands, in particular the debut album from Boston’s Buffalo Tom, whose proximity to their influences earned them the nickname Dinosaur Jr Jr.

A new album arrived in 1991, recorded almost entirely by Mascis on his own. Green Mind met with a lukewarm response on release, although its reputation has only grown over the years. The album track Turnip Farm featured on the soundtrack to the gen X drama Reality Bites.

In the meantime, grunge exploded and Dinosaur Jr would have been well-placed to adjust their sound and image to cash in. Mascis, however, proved himself a man of brittle principles and Dinosaur Jr stuck to their guns, following Green Mind with the equally deafening Where You Been, boasting the phenomenal Not The Same and Start Choppin’. The album also marked the debut of new full-time bassist Mike Johnson. 

Over the course of 1995’s Without A Sound and 1997’s Hand It Over, Murph and Johnson fell away, leaving Mascis operating on his own. Murph joined The Lemonheads, Johnson went solo and Mascis eventually disbanded Dinosaur Jr in the late ’90s, forging ahead with a new band J Masics & The Fog, which included former Minutemen bassist Mike Watt.

The band was one of the cornerstones of Michael Azerrad’s widely praised indie rock bible Our Band Could Be Your Life. Following reissues of their early SST and Sire albums, Mascis announced the original line-up was reforming for a brief tour. As with many temporary reunions, it soon became permanent and Beyond arrived in 2007, showing that the trio had lost none of their original vigour.

Farm and I Bet On Sky kept the ball rolling into the ’10s. Following a brief pause while Mascis and Barlow tended to their solo projects, Dinosaur Jr returned in 2016 with the widely acclaimed Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not.

Their 12th studio album was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic but finally arrived in April 2021, complete with guest appearances from Mascis disciple Kurt Vile. A Dinosaur Jr UK tour was confirmed for April 2022.