Fuel 2000 Records, 1998
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/09/2000
I don't know why it is, but I've never developed a taste for J. Mascis and Dinosaur Jr. I don't hate them; I just don't like their music.
I know I really should be more respectful of Mascis and his revolving lineup of bandmates. After all, they were the anti-Nirvana, continuing to slug things out in the name of alternative rock while languishing in semi-obscurity. Even when the major labels came knocking at their door, Dinosaur Jr took a few years to finally break through commercially with the song "Feel The Pain." If there was any joy, it was short-lived, as the band called it a day not terribly long afterwards.
Yet the music that Dinosaur Jr created tends to fall into the same category as that created by other groups in the genre like Mudhoney and the Melvins: I just happen to find it unapproachable -- almost like Sonic Youth, only without the guitar chords from hell. And while the fans of Dinosaur Jr undoubtedly welcomed the release of In Session, a collection of 10 tracks recorded for the BBC, it didn't change my mind about this group that much.
If you expect to hear the alternative radio hits like "The Wagon" or "Feel The Pain," you may as well walk away from this disc. Instead, this is most definitely a release for the fans, culling tracks from sessions in 1988, 1989 and 1992.
There are indeed one or two moments on In Session where you can understand what the underground buzz was all about. The disc's closing track, "Get Me," is one such example, building from Mascis's vocals and acoustic guitar into something of substance.
But Mascis never was an incredibly powerful or talented vocalist, and often his work seems to fall a little flat on tracks like "Leper," "No Bones" and "Keep The Glove". And I'm sorry, but the primal screaming on the chorus of "Bulbs Of Passion" - cripes, the band had me up until that point. After that, I just could not get into that track.
Of course, if you worship Dinosaur Jr and their music, you can ignore (and probably have) all my griping. For you, hearing "Raisins," "Does It Float" and "In A Jar" in such a unique setting is probably paramount to discovering the Holy Grail in your cabinet, right next to the Las Vegas showgirl shotglasses. Hey - fine with me. Dinosaur Jr really was a band whose music you either loved or hated; there was very little room for middle-ground.
If you want to discover what all the fuss was about when it came to Dinosaur Jr, I'd be hesitant to recommend In Session as your first step. Instead, if you try one or two of their studio albums and like what you hear, then you'll want to pick this disc up to complement their work.