photo & text by nacrowe
i am fully aware that in the pantheon of great DINOSAUR JR albums, WITHOUT A SOUND (SIRE, 1994) is not considered one of them. earlier records with the classic lineup (MURPH, LOU BARLOW, J MASCIS) like YOU'RE LIVING ALL OVER ME (SST, 1988) and BUG (SST, 1988) are probably the better starting point for new iniates into the swirling, explosive and strangely nuanced INDIE ROCK of this classic WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS band.
but this was my introduction to the band as a 4th grader. the BILL CLINTON-trolling "FEEL THE PAIN" was all over the local ALTERNATIVE ROCK station 106.7FM KROQ in nearby LOS ANGELES. i didnt see the accompanying ingenious SPIKE JONZE-directed music video until well into my 20s and the advent of YOUTUBE since as a child in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA we didnt have cable and therein MTV.
but i did have the "FEEL THE PAIN" shirt! it was patently offensive with a dude being graphically chocked out. in fact i still have it somewhere in storage more than 25 years later. it was originally my father's and i believe he got it at BLACK HOLE RECORDS in FULLERTON (which amazingly is still around).
if i'm being honest the initial appeal of that album as a kid was J MASCIS' voice. he had this carefree, almost insouciant delivery that really appealed to me. of course now i am aware of the through-line that the band represents that connects everything from HARDCORE and INDIE ROCK to even BLACK METAL with their previous incarnation as DEEP WOUND. given that this record was essentially a glorified J MASCIS solo record, there are several tracks that showcase his predilection for COUNTRY-fied licks and guitar textures in service to his idiosyncratic and effectively off-kilter melodic sense. specifically tracks like "OUTTA HAND," "BLAH" and "I DON'T THINK SO" come to mind. years later i attended a private school in WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS and became intimately aware of record and used bookstores in towns like AMHERST, NORTHAMPTON and GREENFIELD. i listen to their records now and they seem very much a part of that weird social landscape of HIPPIES mixed with TRUCKER culture.
so in conclusion i still very much love WITHOUT A SOUND but i admit that there are other DINOSAUR JR efforts i turn to first, especially those i listed along with WHERE YOU BEEN (SIRE, 1993), but thats what happens when you have a deep catalogue of influential and ever-inspiring original material.
collage by nacrowe
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO showcasing VOLUME 2 of all the bands i've been writing about on the CHECK OUT THIS BAND section of the DEERBLOG. enjoy. if you're interested here is a link to VOLUME 1.
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST, THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW and CLASSICAL-ISH WITH NUTMEG are available here at the DEER GOD website.
and if you haven't done so already get the FREE PHONE APP for IOS/ANDROID and enjoy listening to MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC 24/7 at your convenience!
this legendary INDIE band that came together in the wake of another iconic proto-DEATH METAL band DEEP WOUND, definitely does not need any publicity or fanboy admiration from me, but that is exactly what I am going to give DINOSAUR JR.
in all honesty they came into my consciousness in the early 90s when i was in 4th grade, partly by their quasi-hit "Feel The Pain" that was on regular rotation on local station KROQ and partly by the accompanying grotesque shirt my dad got at BLACK HOLE RECORDS in nearby Fullerton that i still have. crazy.
but when i really got into them was later during my high school years when i was attending boarding school in WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS, only a few cities north of Amherst where they are from. much like any other place i landed in, i pretty much sought out the local culture and all points led to vocalist/songwriter/guitarist J MASCIS.
what i love about their sound is the understated ferocity of it all. you really get the sense of how much J MASCIS just adores swimming in glorious feedback and barely contained dissonance, yet the songs are delicate, whimsical and melodic. i very much appreciated that dynamism and it makes perfect sense how such influenced later ALTERNATIVE ROCK bands. seeing them live, as well as J MASCIS solo/THE FOG shows, it is almost absurd how loud it all is. the only other band i can recall off-hand that was that loud was the almighty MOTÖRHEAD. for me, the sound of J MASCIS playing guitar or hearing his voice reminds me of brutal WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS winters and surviving algebra half a world away from my family. when i hear their music it reminds me of isolation and oddly, comfort.
i cannot recommend their work highly enough. check out DINOSAUR JR.
as corporate propaganda goes, ERNIE BALL MUSIC MAN's online STRING THEORY video series on YOUTUBE is pretty effective. they basically created extended interviews with such notable players as JOHNNY MARR, DAVE NAVARRO, JERRY CANTRELL, KIRK HAMMETT, DARON MALAKIAN, JADE PUGET, TOM DELONGE and J MASCIS among many others, all explaining how they came to play guitar and what being a musician / songwriter means to them. somewhere, of course, they mention the strings.
there has definitely been a move towards these types of online cross-promotional infomercials (well-produced as they are) by various companies in the retail guitar space, each showcasing how their product in concert with products by other notable manufactures support recording and touring musicians and allow them to pursue their art. and just in terms of marketing i think that is a smart move since it equates your product with the quality of other well-known brands, in this case guitar manufacturers like FENDER, GIBSON, IBANEZ, G&L and PAUL REED SMITH and amp companies like MARSHALL, MESA-BOOGIE, FRIEDMAN, FENDER, DIEZEL, ORANGE and BOGNER among others.
in terms of each artist, hearing them talk about their influences and how they came about playing guitar as they strum off iconic riffs through their live rigs is just such a sweet spot to hit for any fan of guitar playing. i can never hear enough of "THIS CHARMING MAN" or the solo from "THREE DAYS" in its entirety, no matter the context.
kinda feel guilty for showcasing blantant, unapologetic corporate propaganda, but oh well. enjoy!
i discovered this ongoing series on the PREMIER GUITAR youtube channel a few years ago and have long been obsessed with it. as a failed guitar player myself, it is fun to hear from the players and their techs about all sorts of details regarding their sound and setup. the format is basically a run through of their guitars and amps as well as pedal configurations and individual opinions/philosophy regarding reliability/fidelity tradeoff between analog vs digital, cords vs wireless, in-ear vs speaker monitors, etc.
its really cool to to witness the minutiae of their sound, even diving into things like string gauges, pick thickness, pickup configurations, bridges, tuners and the list goes on. it is definitely a niche audience that gets off on this sort of thing, but i am squarely in that demographic.
for me their is never enough times to witness people talk about their prized LES PAUL JR, JAZZMASTER, D-28, COUNTRY GENTLEMAN, P-BASS, 370 12-string, JAZZ BASS, DOBRO TRICONE, 4003 BASS, WHITE FALCON or TELECASTER. or for that matter any variety of high-gain amplifier models like the DUAL RECTIFIER (BLINK 182, PENNYWISE), JCM 800 (SLAYER, JUDAS PRIEST), ROCKERVERB 100 (MASTODON), HIWATT CP103 (THE WHO), 5150 (VAN HALEN), JMP 2204 (AC/DC), SHIVA (ALICE IN CHAINS, TOOL), BE100 (ALICE IN CHAINS), VH4 (TOOL), CENTURY 200 (PANTERA, WHITE ZOMBIE), UBERSCHALL (TOOL) or a MARK IIC+ (early METALLICA)
whats also interesting over time is witnessing firsthand the trend towards digital amp profilers and modelers like the HELIX, KEMPER and especially the AXE FX which allows their setup to be easily transportable (like hand carry-on in a plane easy) as well as more consistent given that traditional tube amplifiers require maintenance from time to time depending on weather, humidity conditions.
you really get a sense of how and why guitar and bass musicians and those that support them utilize the gear they do on tour. you also get a clear "inside baseball" perspective on how they view these numerous tradeoff decisions every musician has to make, and they all have differing opinions. its basically required viewing for anyone interested in gear used by rock bands.
anyway, if you're interested definitely check out the examples i embedded below (these don't even scratch the surface of the total playlist linked HERE).
collage by nacrowe
earlier this summer i did a DEER GOD RADIO show on a topic i am particularly passionate about, INDIE ROCK.
i've spotlighted several bands in this genre (LA LUZ, JAPANESE BREAKFAST, EL GUINCHO, GIRL IN A COMA, DRAB MAJESTY, GRAHAM COXON) with several more planned in the coming weeks (WARPAINT, LA VIDA BOHÈME, THE COATHANGERS, IRON REAGAN, ANA TIJOUX, BATTLES, LE BUTCHERETTES). i've also written several book reviews on this topic (GIRL IN A BAND, LOVE ROCK REVOLUTION, MEET ME IN THE BATHROOM) with have several more lined up (SET THE BOY FREE, THIS BAND COULD BE YOUR LIFE, CLOSER YOU ARE, HUNGER MAKES ME A MODERN GIRL). all due to the fact that this is arguably my favorite genre. for me what edges it above METAL and HARDCORE is the experimental aspect of it, the fact that like HIP HOP, it is a form that at its core challenges the musician and listener alike to seek new sounds. this fact makes it infinitely intriguing to read about and explore as people came to it from different viewpoints along gender, class, geographic, political lines that ultimately complicated and strengthened the fabric of the by definition open community.
looking back, this was one of my favorite playlists yet. i see this specific show as being a sister piece to a previous episode dedicated to 1980s HARDCORE, since both were concurrent scenes that supported and in many cases had a similar DIY ETHIC surrounding it. if anything, i see MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC as a community built on that same ethos of independence, integrity and passion.
if the artwork didn't clue you into the playlist, you can always catch that at the episode's page HERE. take it all in and enjoy this show. i definitely had fun with it.
artwork by nacrowe
tonight's episode of DEER GOD RADIO at 8PM on MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC will be all about ALTERNATIVE ROCK from the 1990s.
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST and THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW are available here at the DEER GOD website.