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Ross M: Conceptually Gross writesRediscovering Our Record Collections: Dinosaur Jr.‘s “Bug”

To tell the truth, I have no idea where I picked up this record. In my head it was Mod Lang in Berkeley but I'm not sure in late 1988 I was hip to that little shop. I was doing most of my time loitering in Rasputin's and Amoeba but my brain keeps showing me grabbing this in a smaller shop. I suppose the beauty of memory is how you basically fill in the gaps with whatever and it becomes reality. All I really know is, like so many records bought at the time, I dove in head first based on the cover and label (SST). This was very pre-internet so my research consisted of throwing money at things that looked cool and hoping for the best. This one worked out pretty well.

Background? Sure, I'll tell you a few things. In 1983 (and the tender age of 13) I started smoking a little pot. Also in 1983 I heard Metallica's Kill 'Em All. To say 1983 was a monumental year in my life would be a gross understatement (Bar Mitzvah, anyone?). Merely two years removed from declaring Men At Work's Business As Usual the greatest album of all time, I had found the sound that I would forever chase (listen to "Whiplash" for the perfect distillation of this sound I speak of). Metal would hold my hand through the awkward years but I had a much darker secret...

I wasn't an angry youth. I was goofy. And nervous. Really nervous. I didn't turn to metal as a middle finger to society or as a way to find power in my powerless existence. I flat out just loved the sound. And, unlike most of my peers, I loved other sounds as well. Today, this statement seems so inconsequential but, trust me, in the late 80's, metalheads hung with metalheads, wavers with wavers, and punks with punks. I kept a tight lip about the fact that by '86 I was getting into punk and hiding in my room trying to figure out what Scratch Acid and the Butthole Surfers possibly looked like. When I cut my hair and started hanging out at Gilman Street, my ties to my metal friends were severed. I moved into another group with whom I also wouldn't really fit (always listening to the wrong music and taking the wrong drugs).

Let's talk about girls. Another reality that was quickly settling in was my childhood crippling shyness was not a thing of the past but was merely hiding behind the bangs that covered half my face. Maybe it was a coincidence that I went down the rabbit hole of male oriented musical tastes. My memories of high school are of a lot of dudes smoking a lot of pot and going to a lot of shows where a lot of other dudes were. Quite frankly, the girls that did show up scared the crap out of me. I was, however, secretly pining after the softer, gentler new wave girls with their aqua netted hair and complete lack of interest in me. Again, a kid between worlds.


OK, OK. This about Dinosaur Jr. The second I got home from whatever record store it was and that needle hit vinyl and the opening strum of "Freak Scene" hit my ears, I was pulled in. Then...J's lazy, disaffected, warbly voice. Here was a guy laying down huge guitar parts who sounded sad, scared, lonely. Here was a band bashing their instruments who sounded sad, scared, lonely. Here was my "holy shit!" moment number two. I had stumbled upon (because of that thing that looks like maybe a wacky wall walker on the cover?) dudes who I fully understood. As the record played on, through the rumble of "They Always Come" and jangle of "Pond Song" (with raging guitar solos all along the way), finally ended with Lou Barlow screaming what I screamed in my head every day at school "WHY DON'T YOU LIKE ME?" I felt at home. I never wanted to hair spray my hair and listen to Morrissey bitch and moan over not having a stitch to wear. I didn't want synths and sadness. I wanted riffs and sadness. Dinosaur Jr. gave me this in spades.

The late 80's were a heyday for metal. My favorites were putting out their masterpieces and I was playing the hell out of those records. But I was also moving quickly through punk (is there any other way to move through it?) and slowly finding my way into the cardingan'ed world of indie rock. The bridge between those worlds was Dinosaur Jr. Sure, I'd love to say "You're Living All Over Me" was my first but I wasn't that cool. It is actually a better document of what I didn't know I was looking for as it is much more riff oriented than "Bug". But that is neither here nor there.

Ironically, the band that really could be my life was sewing the seeds of the death of my metal heroes. I wasn't the only kid into big guitars and sadness listening to Dinosaur. Some Kurt Cobain kid was doing the same and the band he would start would throw quite the monkey wrench into the careers of the Anthraxes, Metallicas, and Megadeths of the world.

(Slayer, as always, just said screw it plowed ahead. There's a reason every time I'm out in a Slayer shirt I get multiple cries of "SLAYER!!!!!" There's no bigger "screw you" to the world than sticking to your guns.)

Dinosaur Jr. didn't help me with the girls. Nothing was going to help with that. But they let me know I wasn't alone in what felt like a confusing mess of being into a macho would of riffs and leather (Yeah yeah, we were young. How could we possibly know?) but feeling totally scared of the world. I was sensitive, guys. But I wanted to rattle my goddamned head. J and company said "Here you go, pal. Play all the air guitar you want while bemoaning the fact that Naomi is never going to be interested." Thanks, J.




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Categorized: Rediscovering Our Record Collections

Topics: dinosaur jr.

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