Every Record I Own: Dinosaur Jr – Bug
Dinosaur Jr are probably my second favourite of that late 80s wave of punky alt rock American bands. By that wave I mean the bands covered in the book Our Band Could Be Your Life which I read last year.
A lot of those bands were really important to me in my late teens/early 20s, and reading the book made me revisit them. Out of the bands in the book only Replacements, Dinosaur Jr, Butthole Surfers, and Fugazi (in that order of how frequently I listen to them) have been bands I’ve actively listened to in the past 8 or so years.
(I have a half written blog post about Slint’s Spiderland which covers some of the feelings I have revisiting some of the music I was really into in this era of my life in which there are parts of myself I’m deeply ashamed of, which I’ll eventually finish.)
One thing the book highlighted for me is how much the success of R.E.M. coming from an indie label, signing to a major and becoming massive, influenced the American underground scene. It opened up a pathway, with a tiny chance to become superstars, which combined with a hyper masc culture amplified the narcissistic tendencies to make a lot of men pretty unbearable.
As far as characters from the book went J Mascis was not as bad as some of the others, but being in a band with him sounded awful. He basically ignored them entirely, never acknowledging anything but their flaws.
This is shown in a cruel joke on the final track on this record Don’t, the heaviest song on the album. Written by J Mascis for Lou Barlow to sing, the only lyrics are ‘Why Don’t You Like Me‘ which Barlow repeatedly screamed with so much intensity that he coughed up blood after recording. Both trying to impress J Mascis and emphasise the question given to him. Mascis kicked Barlow out of the band soon after the album was released.
Since the book was published then original line up has reformed so I hope there have been amends made.
While the aggressive masc energy is here, it’s somewhat balanced by an emotional heart on sleeve vocals and a shoegazy wall of sound (it could almost be called dream pop at moments if it wasn’t for the ever constant soloing.) The rhythm section feels so big, which is impressive considering how much the guitar dominates.
This is probably my third favourite record of theirs (After Where You Been, ahead of You’re Living All Over Me) but the only one I own.
I think the emo tinge is what has kept Dinosaur Jr in rotation over their peers. I don’t have any other records from any bands in the book (I would buy a Replacements one if it came up somewhere for a reasonable price) as they usually are expensive, and I have mixed feelings about how they make me feel, even if I do still like them.