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.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
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.