Great Albums You May Have Missed: Dinosaur Jr's You're Living All Over Me (1987)
The mid/late '80s was a strange time for rock and roll. Pioneers seemed to be stuck in their own unique ruts, whether it was band friction, drugs and failing health, being fed up with the record industry or just plain bad albums. Glam Rock was at its zenith, video had killed the radio star, rap was in its fetal stage and a majority of people had no new acts to latch on to.
Then a small independent label called SST Records began putting out one interesting album after another. Starting with Black Flag and the Minutemen the label became one of the most influential of the '80s in any genre moving on to release some of the greatest works by bands like Sonic Youth, The Meat Puppets, Husker Du, the Bad Brains and today's focus, Dinosaur Jr.
These bands all were outside of the mainstream but for different reasons, Dinosaur Jr. (then known as simply Dinosaur) had already recorded and released one album and had grown into their power trio style when they released You're Living All Over Me. The group seemed to blend metal, punk, stoner haze rock, touches of country, doom and arena rock, often in the same song. Upon first listen it is the guitar work that simply blows you away, riffs that lumber from the depths, riffs that reign down from the heavens, riffs made of mud, riffs made of pure noise, J Mascis's guitar work is staggering (as is Wharton Tiers's layering and production work). Never mind the fact he started off as a drummer in Deep Wound, by his second album on guitar Mascis instantly established himself as guitar god in an era when those were extremely rare.
Starting with the raw-as-an-open-wound sounding "Little Fury Things," You're Living All Over Me grabs your ear with its pounding rhythm section and monster guitars. The lyrics are another beast however, where Mascis works magic on the six strings, the singing and lyrics are mostly reduced to mumbles and vagueness. Even the title of the first track mixed with the "rabbit" falling away from the listener can be misconstrued as a Furry thing instead of the Fury contained in the offering.
The punkish "Kracked" blares out quick before the song delves into what sounds like a jet engine inspired solo from J. The pumping bass of Lou Barlow and drums of Murph (Emmett Jefferson Murphy III) keep the song from soaring away into the ether as the low end constantly bounces forward. Their lock-step approach is crucial throughout, keeping things attached to a bottom that is just as powerful as the screeching highs, like the disk highlight "Sludgefeast" which comes next.
It is hard to put into words the guitar glory displayed here, starting with feedback the track lumbers and screeches everywhere; if you are reading this and want to get a sense of this album in just one song (which is closed minded but I know, you're pressed for time) check out these 5 minutes and 18 seconds of grandeur.
The fretboard gymnastics continue with "The Lung," which has tempo changes, ringing high notes and well-placed cymbal crashes over a minimal 2 sentence lyrical refrain which could be: "No where to collapse the lung/Breathes a doubt in everyone." J's lyrics are somewhat of a mystery but that only deepens the fascination with the album as each listen could bubble up a new word or phrase.
The next pairing of "Raisans" and "Tarpit" call to mind the bands namesake, if only instead of fossilizing when the giants of the past ceased to be, they would turn into behemoth songs. Containing oodles of guitar layers, and a gritty feel both contribute to and rise above the madness with a feel-good, if angst-fueled vibe. The creepy lyrics of "Raisans" get even creepier when you find out that the scream and distorted vocals were recorded by Lou Barlow at an old folk's home he used to work in... freaky, and somehow perfect. "Tarpit" is classic arena ready rock with a dirty coat of rust from the opening strums, catchy in its beats, chords, rip roaring solo and destructive finale.
With "In A Jar" you can see why the group called their "greatest hits" release Ear-Bleeding Country. There is a distinct jangle and weird disjointed lyrics that through a warped cosmic blender could be considered "classic country," dealing namely with loneliness and confusion. Barlow's two contributions are vastly different to end the album, "Lose" plays like a fired-up version of the songs that came before, with epic shredding while "Poledo" is an acoustic bit of weirdness that manages to make albums like this unique. The reissue copy that came out on Merge records might be the best of the bunch with a tacked on classic cover of The Cure's "Just Like Heaven" that is frightening and touching; like the totality of You're Living All Over Me.For more on this great album check out Nick Attfield's fantastic entry in the 33 1/3 series that focuses on You're Living All Over Me, it is a stellar read for any fan of the band or the album. Also the original trio reformed back in 2005 and have been going as strong as ever (seriously), so be on the lookout for Dinosaur Jr's newest release titled I Bet On Sky due out on September 18th. You can get a first listen to the new album over here at NPR.
Preview some tracks from You're Living All Over Me online:
Please Note: online audio tracks are an excellent source for previewing, but are compressed and do not match CD quality audio.
Borrow Dinosaur Jr. from NYPL: