Very few artists have had a career trajectory even remotely similar to punk/noise rock group Dinosaur Jr. If you are asking yourself ‘Who is Dinosaur. Jr’ we have a little work to do, and because I’m just a nice person, I’ll work with you.
The group officially debuted with a self-titled album that did little for anyone, even the band. Yet it wasn’t until 1987’s ‘You’re Living All Over Me’ where the band gained a following and earned some respect for their abrasive and heartwarming stylistic approach. When ‘Bug’ and ‘Green Mind’ followed in 1988 and 1991 respectively, Dinosaur Jr. found a solidified status as minor punk legends. Front man J Masci’s pseudo-singing and guitar-play, combined with Lou Barlow’s bass made for a classic lo-fi style that was instantly recognized and reiterated from countless groups in the 90’s.
Dinosaur Jr. went on to do some line-up shifts bringing aboard Mike Johnson and George Berz, and released a string of modest amounts. They didn’t quite gain the notoriety of their earliest material, and the band wet on to call it quits in 1997 after capping their career off with 7 studio LP’s and a decent run at the whole ‘band thing.’
Case closed. The story isn’t exactly unique. A band starts great with a trifecta (considered the holy trinity of their catalog from 1987 to 1991) and then disbands after some less successful albums.
Most interestingly, the years have left Dinosaur. Jr. anxious. The band regrouped in 2005. The banding included all three original members, whose last activity together was with 1988’s ‘Bug.’
The most fascinating aspect of this whole story has two distinct attributes- 1) the original members really really disliked each other- their break-up being obvious recognition of this. 2) The album the group DID end up releasing in 2007 was absolutely fantastic. It garnered rave reviews, excellent sales (for a band of this caliber) and was considered a classic in its own right.
That album was ‘Beyond.’ It saw Dinosaur Jr. in top form, 10 years after the band released anything, and 15 years after the band released anything of substance with their classic line-up.
The band then went on to release ‘Farm’ in 2009 to equally raving reviews. The Dinosaur Jr. comeback was officially in full throttle. The group’s next album ‘I Bet on Sky’ debuted to considerable sales and gathered excellent reviews for its ability to balance out their energetic abrasion with hooks and melodies to excite.
Dinosaur Jr. has managed to come back from the dead and rival their older classic material. When it comes to music, and any art form really, this is just borderline impossible. Very few bands can say they have competed with their classic material, especially with a 10 year gap. Maybe the entire group needed was a break- a break from living the music world so immediately- a break from being together. Sometimes, all we need in life is a break and a chance to come back with vitality and focus towards a future that is forgiving and splendid.
Ryan Merkel is a cool writer guy and contributor all over the internet, from blogs on music to magazines about music to sites about playing music. He is currently founder of SunState Investing and is head editor of the music entertainment magazine, CultureTease. He has written two novels, and is currently working on a third full-length novel, surprisingly, not about music. His novel “Splatter the Noise” earned accolades for independent publishing. Be sure to check out: www.sunstateinvesting.com
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