100 Greatest Songs of the 80’s #56 Dinosaur Jr. – Freak Scene

Released : 1988

We tend to be quite parochial, so the history of indie rock usually gets told from the perspective of one side of the Atlantic or the other; for every Kinks there’s a Byrds, where C86 lives there’s an REM or Beat Happening and there would arguably be a black hole filled with generations of British bands were it not for Alex Chilton.

Dinosaur Jr. had been jamming econo out of Amherst, Mass. for several years and were on the brink of releasing their third album Bug – and breaking up – by the time Freak Scene threatened to make them 180 Minutes type famous. Part of the reason for the collective angst was front man’s J Mascis’ controlling tendencies, a pervasive need for control which meant that the song’s recording process was a matter of drummer Murph and future Sebadoh guitarist Lou Barlow simply turning up and playing their instruments.

Whatever the studio chemistry or lack of it, Freak Scene – with it’s amateur hour video partially shot in Membranes loudmouth John Robb’s house in Manchester – is the sort of joyous mess that American bands were supposedly too cool to write, a slacker fuzz mountain complete with guitar soloing, rockist indulgences. A carefree blending of cucumber sandwich melodies with Yankee brute force, the special relationship had never sounded better.

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