A GUEST POSTING by SWC
Sorry to start with a blatant plug, but over on my blog ‘No Badger Required’ the other day I told a story about how a couple of years ago I was walking home from a party when a badger (not that one, no) jumped out of a hedge and scared the life out of me. I was minding my own business admittedly I was pissed, but I was doing nothing wrong at the time.
Anyway, it jumped out, bloody fangs and teeth bared, growled at me and the tore off up the road, before leaping into the hedge on the other side of the road about fifty metres away. I stood there screaming like a toddler who had just dropped their ice cream. I’m pretty sure that when I eventually got my shit together and wandered past the bit of the hedge where it ran through, I could hear a little badger laugh (kind of like the noise Mutley, Dick Dastardly’s dog makes) from behind the hedge.
That section of road has since that moment been called Badger Corner. It has become a random music focal point – for instance – the Sunday Shuffle element on my blog (sorry, last time, promise) is often selected by me posting whichever song was playing when I reached Badger Corner.
This morning I went for a run and decided that whichever band were playing when I ran past Badger Corner, I would write an Imaginary Compilation Album on them. For a while it looked like that would be on rapper Anderson Paak, because his cover version of Coldplay’s ‘XY’ was playing as I approached Badger Corner and I was sort of cursing my luck – although by the way that version of ‘XY’ is so much better than the original and your day will better for checking it out.
But at the exact point that I reached the gap in the hedge where gangs of menacing badgers lie in wait to mug passing idiots, we were nine seconds into ‘Repulsion’ by ‘godfathers of grunge’ Dinosaur Jr. So folks, that was a long-drawn introduction to this, an Imaginary Compilation Album on Dinosaur Jr.
The Wagon (1991 from ‘Greenmind’)
Unlike me, long-drawn-out intros are not something that J Mascis is that into. Many of Dinosaur Jr’s songs have vocals that kick in within seconds of the music, or in the case of ‘The Wagon’ straight away. ‘The Wagon’ positively fizzes with energy and it is in my opinion, the band’s finest hour, if only for that amazing solo that J Mascis throws in about halfway through.
Freakscene (1988, from ‘Bug’)
Dinosaur Jr never quite got as big as some of the bands that were part of the same scene as them, but their influence is far-reaching. Take ‘Freakscene’, easily the band’s most popular, and most talked about song, and the song that more indie club nights were named after in the 90s than any other. Of all the alternative rock songs about alienation, self-esteem and generally moodiness that came out thirty odd years ago, this is probably the greatest of them all.
Recognition (2012, from ‘I Bet on Sky’)
‘I Bet On Sky’ is the band’s tenth studio album, and it’s also one of their finest. J Mascis’ voice is much calmer, less ragged, less like he is lying in a ditch whilst singing. The songs here are more relaxed, and I would imagine that is something to do with Lou Barlow’s influence. ‘Recognition’ is the better of two Barlow songs on the album, it is more jaunty, a little more rocky than the other one (which is called ‘Rude’ and sounds like it should be on a Sebadoh album)
Repulsion (1985, from ‘Dinosaur)
Of course, when they started out, Dinosaur Jr, were called simply Dinosaur. Then they got sued by an American prog rock supergroup featuring members of the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, and they added a cheeky ‘Jr’ to their name. The band’s early work was a lot heavier and has a more hardcore punk feel to it. Saying that ‘Repulsion’ sounds a lot like ‘Harvest Moon’ era Neil Young if you ask me.
Just Like Heaven (1989 from ‘You’re Living All Over Me’)
‘Just Like Heaven’ the original version by Fat Bob and his Band, was the first song I danced to as a married man. It was a lovely moment. In contrast, ‘Just Like Heaven’ the Dinosaur Jr version was the first song I ever stage dived too. It wasn’t a lovely moment. I got kneed in the balls on the way down.
I happen to think that this is one of the greatest cover versions of all time. Definitely in the Top Five. Just behind Anderson Paak’s version of ‘XY’.
Start Choppin’ (1993, From ‘Where You Been?’)
In 1993, the UK was at peak grunge, Nirvana were the biggest band on the planet and because of that all sorts of American bands were in the UK and having relative success with their brand of heavy pop rock. The release of Dinosaur Jrs fifth album ‘Where You Been?’ was preceded by the bands biggest Uk Hit, ‘Start Choppin’. It was as close to a pop record as you were ever going to get from the band, but it was pop enough to appeal to the kids, and it barged its way into the UK Top 20.
Thumb (1991, from ‘Greenmind’)
When Lou Barlow left the band after the release of their second album, J Mascis went to the studio and sulked for a while. He recorded 7 tracks, all of which appeared on ‘Greenmind’. There were apparently three tracks that he couldn’t get the drumming sound right on, they were ‘The Wagon’, ‘Water’ and the tremendous ‘Thumb’. So he phoned Murph, who sorted it, and between them made the best three tracks on the entire album.
Crumble (2007, From ‘Beyond’)
Lou Barlow eventually rejoined the band in 2005, and in 2007 they released ‘Beyond’ and it harked back to the sound that they almost perfected in ‘Bug’. All those years of conflict and weary old arguments seemed to be pushed aside, and the results were amazing. ‘Crumble’ is probably the pick of the bunch in my opinion.
Quicksand (1991, B Side to ‘The Wagon’)
The final track on the 12” version of ‘The Wagon’ is ‘Quicksand’ a cover of Bowie’s classic. However, Instead of singing “I ain’t got the power anymore” J Mascis sings, “We ain’t got the wagon anymore”. Apparently, on the way to the studio to record the song, J Mascis crashed his station wagon (which was apparently the actual ‘Wagon’) and changed the words.
Keep the Glove (1988, B Side to ‘Freakscene’)
We’ll end with one of the band’s more upbeat tracks, if only for what it influenced later. ‘Keep the Glove’ sounds a lot like the sound that Teenage Fanclub, The Boo Radleys and a host of other UK bands started to make about 18 months later.
Thanks for reading