Tag Archive: Minutemen


This is a monthly feature where classic and cult albums are revisited and reassessed for the modern listener. The only rule is that it must be a critically acclaimed or cult record released before 2000.

Dinosaur Jr. – “You’re Living All Over Me” (SST Records, 1987)

This month’s Classics Critiqued selection is considered by many fans and music critics to be an alternative rock classic that put Dinosaur Jr. (J. Mascis (guitar), Lou Barlow (bass) and Murph (drums) on the map and triggered their signing to a major label. “You’re Living All Over Me” and the band’s live shows influenced the shoegaze music scene in England and the American grunge scene in Seattle. Combining a melting pot of rock music genres including metal, hardcore, punk and noise rock and adding twist of Neil Young and a pop sensibility, the album created a fresh fusion from long established elements. In this article I discuss the album and its sound, initial impact and continuing legacy.

 “You’re Living All Over Me” was the band’s second album and follow-up to 1986’s “Dinosaur”, which was a spirited affair that hints at what was to come and contains none of the new melodic sound showcased on “You’re Living All Over Me”. By this point the band had developed their sound and became tighter through touring. The album arrived in 1987 as the US alternative rock scene shifted from the dominance of hardcore in the early 80s to both more experimental and more tuneful extremes. On the one hand Sonic Youth released “Sister” and Minutemen would bow out with “Ballot Result” while Husker Dü had released “Warehouse: Songs and Stories”, The Meat Puppets put out “Huevos” and Dinosaur Jr.’s closest peers the Pixies started their career with “Come On Pilgrim”. Dinosaur Jr. sat in between these two extremes taking the best elements from the two sides and fusing them together into something of their own.

“A brilliant, brutal hailstorm of hyper-distorted riffs and pulverizing basslines, it’s harder, louder and meaner than nine out of ten heavy metal albums. The multi-sectioned songs change direction so frequently that it’s hard to tell them apart, as the power-trio assault is modulated by graceful, looming melodies that rise like mist out of the pedal-mess”.

–          Trouserpress.com

What were the ingredients that went into Dinosaur Jr.’s melting pot? They combined the molten garage rock of “Funhouse” by The Stooges, the adolescent punk of The Ramones, the noise rock of early Sonic Youth, Neil Young style melodic country rock and Black Sabbath’s epic sludge filled metal. One of their closet contemporaries was Husker Dü who similarly combined punk’s energy with the classic rock influences that punk bands were supposed to shun. The difference between the two is that as Dinosaur Jr.’s sound developed they retained most of their punk edge. Many critics have spent a lot of time discussing the emotional content of the band’s material (more on that later) and I think it’s this that places the trio in a lineage of great adolescent pop-rock bands including The Stooges, The Ramones, Buzzcocks and Nirvana; maybe what separates Dinosaur Jr. is their earnestness.

“It gives off the feeling that you’re not listening to a record, per se, but rather have stumbled into the practice space of the best unknown guitar band in the world. They don’t know you’re there, so they just keep playing with everything they are”.

–          Pop Matters

Much has been made of Dinosaur Jr.’s slacker image and their dour subject matter. However, what is rarely picked up is the moments when their music temporarily surges up and sours creating (sonically at least) a feeling of uplift. Taking into consideration that the band members were barely out of their teens dealing with all the new problems life throws at young people, it’s not a surprise they often dealt with life’s more troubling emotions. The band were incredibly adept at expressing a range of emotions often simultaneously, who else could create songs like ‘Raisins’ which finds space to include “anger, arousal, depression and awkwardness” in a four minute song or ‘In A Jar’ which “displays the scepticism and paranoia of the socially downtrodden when a girl actually likes them”. Barlow takes things a step further on his two song writing credits: ‘Lose’ and ‘Poledo’ which total “nine minutes of pure, unadulterated self-loathing”. ‘Poledo’ is the odd one out on the album sounding like a prototype for what would be become Barlow’s new project Sebadoh. It combines a section of lo-fi ukulele with Barlow despairing over the top followed by “some Stockhausen-by-way-of-Fisher-Price pause-button edits.”  Elsewhere Mascis yearns like Neil Young, his voice caught in “a confused mess: emotionally disentangled yet intensely felt, indolent and passive yet capable of incredible fury and volume”. Dinosaur Jr. created the most directly personal and emotional music while their peers “My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth immersed their personal-political ambivalence in torrents of guitar noise; Butthole Surfers ran with scatological humour as expressive deflection; Spacemen 3 discovered gospel and the blues as a way of channelling their responses through pre-determined forms.”

“… Dinosaur are the sound of galvanised lethargy, vibrant despondency. Grey skies have seldom blazed so bright, surged so furiously.” – Simon Reynolds, Bring The Noise.

It was with “You’re Living All Over Me” and its accompanying tour that Dinosaur Jr. started to influence bands on both sides of the Atlantic, most obviously the Seattle grunge scene and in particular Mudhoney, who incorporated the sludge metal aspect of Dinosaur Jr., and Nirvana who, inspired by “You’re Living All Over Me”, also married hardcore punk’s intensity to metal sludge and grind with pop sensibilities. Over in the UK the band was an influence on the shoegaze scene with My Bloody Valentine taking the way that “Dinosaur Jr. dissolved rock’s vertebrae, vaporizing the riff, power chord and bass line in a blizzard of serrated haze. MBV took this logic of blessed amorphousness to the next level, years later; Kevin Shields would play in the appropriately named J Mascis and the Fog.” Though it’s hard to pick out contemporary bands who are directly influenced by “You’re Living All Over Me” it’s immediate impact echoed in many bands for years to come.

You can listen to “You’re Living All Over Me” here.

 Let us your views on the album and Dinosaur Jr. in the comments or on our Twitter.

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This is a monthly feature where classic and cult albums are revisited and reassessed for the modern listener. The only rule is that it must be a critically acclaimed or cult record released before 2000.

Wire – ‘Pink Flag’ (1977, Harvest/EMI)


Wire and their debut album ‘Pink Flag’ are a complex proposition: arriving at the tail end of punk but too early for the beginnings of post-punk and the ideas and attitudes that aligned best with Wire’s. They were not musicians merely discarding the excesses of progressive rock but a band learning to play their instruments and hating that punk rock was becoming a self parody, descending into the yobbish pub rock that they had reacted against. A band not only interested in making music but ‘art objects’ and concerned with image and performance.

Wire, like many art rock and post-punk bands, formed at art school. Originally called Overload the band comprised of Bruce Gilbert (guitar), George Gill (lead guitar) and Colin Newman (guitar/vocals) and they were later joined by drummer Robert Gotobed and bassist Graham Lewis. During this period the members were divided. Gill the skilled musician and main writer wanted to pursue a more traditional approach while the others were interested in their school’s guest lecturer Brian Eno’s ideas about non musicianship and limited skill not being a barrier to artistic expression. Even at this early stage Gilbert and Newman thought of Wire as more of an art project than simply a band. The pair considered that by wearing the same black and white clothing and having a disciplined presence on stage they would not distract from the music. This idea of distancing of themselves from their music became an important feature of Wire.

Wire also detached themselves from other punk bands though they were spurred on by the notion that punk broke down the traditional concept of needing to be a trained musician to create music. Lewis recalls “We felt an affinity but we weren’t part of the social scene” while Newman says “I viewed as a bit of laboratory, not musically but culturally, because the people were experimenting with themselves: with their behaviour, their appearance and their clothes. Everything was up for grabs.” Their age was a big factor as punk was focused on youth and rebellion. As Ira Robbins of Trouser Press Record Guides puts it “Wire seemed like adults. They weren’t just kids spewing invective. They were intellectuals making a very informed statement that just happened to sound like kids spewing invective.” Wire were allergic to the ragged rock ‘n’ roll traditions that their peers were morphing into in front of their eyes. Their discipline shunned the messiness of punk but kept its speed and aggression while imbuing it with a minimalism that was closer related to Kraftwerk, Steve Reich and Terry Riley and though they didn’t sound like these artists they embraced their aesthetics and principles. Appropriately for their arty sounds and ideas Wire signed to Harvest, a label famous for releasing progressive and art rock bands in the early 1970s, before releasing their debut.

This minimalism manifested itself in the artwork of ‘Pink Flag’, which started as a simple line drawing and then later developed from a photo of a bare flag pole in Plymouth where the band was playing. Gotobed’s drum kit was stripped down to the essential bass drum, snare and hi-hats and his drumming style followed suit. By the time Wire came to record ‘Pink Flag’ they were down to the classic quartet having shed George Gill and his winding solos.

The album opens with ‘Reuters’, a brilliant introduction with its crawling build of guitar and bass standing in stark opposition to their peers’ records that opened with an upbeat anthem. It perfectly demonstrated the Wire blueprint and a statement of their intent. Immediately countering its predecessor is the 28 second rush of ‘Field Day for the Sundays’ and pace-slower ‘Three Girl Rumba’ (which features their most famous riff that was later used by Elastica for their hit ‘Connection’). The opener’s use of unconventional structural framing that concentrates on the beginning and the end of the song not the song’s content and ambiguous lyrics are threads that run through ‘Pink Flag’, particularly on ‘Field Day for the Sundays’, ‘Surgeon’s Girl’ (with its misplaced count-in subverting that rock cliché) and ‘The Commercial’. The next big moment is ‘Lowdown’ with its slowed down funk riff and atmosphere placing it firmly in a trio alongside ‘Reuters’ and the title track as ‘taut minimalist exercises in dread and menace’. ‘Surgeon’s Girl’ separates Wire further from punk and together with ‘Fragile’ and ‘Mannequin’ hints at why the band signed to Harvest. Newman described the former as ‘Pink Floyd, fast’ referring to Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd, which the other songs echo and the jangly guitars of ‘Mannequin’ recall late 60s psychedelia. In another extreme swing the album ends with ‘12XU’ a punk blast that is one of the album’s standouts. It bursts out at full speed and doesn’t waste an ounce of fat adding to the split second feeling and then it’s over as quickly as it began.

‘Pink Flag’ could appear to be a collection of dissident tracks, certainly some were deliberately sequenced to jar, but this was conceived as an ‘art object’ and is best experienced as a glorious whole and it went on to influence a range of alternative and experimental artists, impacting on Blur, post-punk revivalists The Futureheads, radiophonic experimentalist Scanner (aka Robin Rimbaud who formed Githead with Newman in 2004) and the 80s US punk underground with the likes of Henry Rollins and Minutemen extolling its virtues. Despite everything that could have not worked Wire created a disciplined work that still sounds as unique and strong today as it did in 1977.

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