Following the recent performance from Dinosaur Jr at Reading, here is a review of Freakscene that i did a while back for a demo site.
In 1988 I was given a tape by my younger brother. That tape was “Bug” by Dinosaur Jr.
The single was Freakscene. It was and remains to be one of my favourite singles of all time. Its main feature is the monumental level of pure guitar noise, delivered with a crushing volume, spiked with shards of feedback. The vocals are lazy and personal and the song is simple. It is the perfect single.
Dinosaur Jr. along with their peers, The Pixies, were largely responsible for returning lead guitar to indie-rock music, paving the way for Nirvana.
In America Freakscene captured the feeling of the emerging American post punk underground, becoming a huge college radio hit.
To some this was the real anthem of Grunge when the movement was in its most infant stage, before it sold out to the MTV age.
To put that in context Nirvanas “Teen Spirit” The only contender for that title was released some four years after the event and then at a time when MTV was perhaps at its peak in introducing new music to the masses. That “teen spirit” owed its success totally to its exposure on MTV would be an absurd statement, but no one can argue that the video received an incredible amount of airtime and owes as much to its visuals (slo mo cheerleaders etc) as it does to its musical content. MTV gave Teen Spirit to the masses and took the Grunge movement from cult status to a mass audience.
That said there is no denying that Teen Spirit is also a brilliant song and deserves every accolade it receives. But the real movement was happening some years before, in the guise of Dinosaur Jr. and the Pixies, when the raw edges were still there to see (hear) and from that era the song of choice has to be Freakscene.
Is there anyone that could not empathise with the lines:
Sometimes I don’t thrill you
Sometimes I think I’ll kill you
Just don’t let me fuck up will you
’cause when I need a friend it’s still you.
J Mascics the bands founder had his roots firmly in hardcore punk and later became an admirer of Neil Youngs over distorted guitar sound and simply crafted songs.
In 1989 in true Spinal tap style, Mascics told bass guitarist Lou Barlow, that he was breaking the band up-only for it to be re-formed the following day-without Barlow.
Barlow subsequently formed the band Sebadoh and continued to make some great albums.
While the bands profile was raised in the wake of Nirvanas success they never really became much bigger than highly respected cult figures.
Today, Freakscene sounds as fresh as it ever did, it hasn’t dated at all, time has if anything made it even more endearing.
What a mess.
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=OQ2FS53ySgU listen to this excellent live version.