Synopses & Reviews
This is an in-depth study of the visceral slacker classic from 1987, an album that influenced enormously the nascent alternative scene. Dinosaur Jr, the stereotypical slackers. Mascis, Barlow, Murph (just Murph): three early-20-somethings still overburdened by a torpid adolescence and a disastrous dress sense. With battered guitar, bass, and kit, they carry around a catalogue of songs that betrays identities half-formed at best, schizoid at worst. But listen. "1987", a new album, a snapshot of a moment when a furious musical intensity swung upwards and pushed their lyrics and Mascis' vocal whine far into the margins. Searing riffs, mountainous solos, and the tightest of fills — underpinned by stream-of-consciousness structures and a palette of crazed effects — steal the show. These three build a one-off sound that stirred up the hardening alternative mainstream and drove it to distraction. "You're Living All Over Me": supposedly Mascis' indictment of what it was like to tour in a van with these other two misfits, but also testimony to the obsession — an itch, a disease — that the band's disengagement from their world had produced. This record cares so little it cares a lot.
"The series, which now comprises 29 titles with more in the works, is freewheeling and eclectic, ranging from minute rock-geek analysis to idiosyncratic personal celebration." The New York Times Book Review
1985. Dinosaur, still without the Jr. Not hardcore anymore, but not yet anything else either. First live shows: fearsomely loud. First record, a fearsome mess: a raw miscellany thrown together from small-town ennui, the apathy of the middle classes, and all the things teenage boys are obsessed with.
1987. Dinosaur Jr. A new record, You're Living All Over Me, the result of a move into a college dorm, encounters with Sonic Youth in the big city, and a hell of a lot of practice. Searing guitar riffs smash into mountainous solos; gnarly pedal effects light up twisted song structures; tight punk drumfills wade through distorted bass sludge. Contradictions are everywhere, but with opposite poles forced together, a fixating spark is created - one that, pre-Nirvana, ignites the idea of how the alternative might also become the mainstream.
All things, as this book explores through interviews and comment from the band and its friends, that make up the unique - and uniquely odd - story of a record that cares so little it cares a lot.
About the Author
Dr. Nick Attfield is postdoctoral researcher and lecturer in music at the University of Oxford, UK. He specializes in 19th and 20th century German and Austrian music, French opera, and musical analysis.
"33 1/3" is a series of short books about a wide variety of albums, by artists ranging from James Brown to the Beastie Boys. Launched in September 2003, the series now contains over 60 titles and is acclaimed and loved by fans, musicians and scholars alike. It was only a matter of time before a clever publisher realized that there is an audience for whom Exile on Main Street or Electric Ladyland are as significant and worthy of study as The Catcher in the Rye or Middlemarch.
Read an exclusive essay by Nick Attfield