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Old 04-11-2010, 10:22 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Default 1988

I’m not going to lie, this next post is pretty much the reason I started this thread. This is going to be fun.

Somewhere between the years 1987 and 1989 saw the creation of almost 95% of shoegaze bands active during the golden era (ca. 1989-1994). Obvious exceptions to this were bands like Spacemen 3 and My Bloody Valentine, who were active some years prior. So what happened? Was it mere happenstance or did some event lead to those bands’ creation and ultimate success? My guess –- it was a bit of both. Occasionally there are periods in musical history which defy pre-existing boundaries, and as such this is not so much an album review (like prior posts) but an attempt to correlate historical events. The question yet remains: what happened between those years that saw the formation of so many successful and ultimately seminal acts?

I don’t think it was a dream pop band or a jangle pop act or any of the above which functioned as the stimulating experience. In fact, the band in question that I am referring to was more closely associated with grunge and the American indie rock explosion than anything Britain had to offer. Still confused?

I am referring, of course, to Dinosaur Jr.

Yep, or at least their European tour of fall 1988. One of the most unlikely heroes of shoegaze, Dino J came from a background of hardcore and classic rock influences, not the typical dreamy vocals of shoegaze yore. Bearing more in common to their Bostonian foils Pixies than any artist I’ve yet to mention, their inspiration (rather than influence) upon the shoegaze community was felt as a ripple throughout their tenuous existence.

Combining J Mascis’ pealing guitar tones, Lou Barlow’s pulverizing fuzzy basslines, and Murph’s furious drumming, Dinosaur Jr. epitomized the rise of noise rock during the 1980s. Deriving influence from other ‘80s acts like the Birthday Party and the Cure, Dino J fused an intricate balance of wailing feedback and languid drawling vocals. That’s not to say that they were a simple band in any regard; they brought the power trio back into the limelight and were some of the most able musicians to grace indie rock.

Dinosaur Jr.’s 1987 sophomore masterpiece, You’re Living All Over Me, is a testament to the ingenious songwriting of Mascis. The first four songs alone are among Dino J’s best and resound just how huge the disparity in songwriting abilities Mascis had with and without Barlow. Their live act was equally impressive during this time, and without a doubt one of the most electrifying experiences one could envision. And for its time, Dinosaur Jr. definitely assisted the growth of shoegaze throughout Britain.

Their 1988 European tour was met with critical and popular acclaim across a spectrum of listeners. Befriending fellow musicians Kevin Shields and Bilinda Butcher (of My Bloody Valentine fame), J Mascis and his incredible command of the guitar left audiences in awe with the instrumental prowess at his disposal. And in time, influenced My Bloody Valentine’s own sound as they evolved. (Ever wonder why Bilinda used Jazzmasters? Or why MBV elected to play at such excruciating volume levels?) It was obvious that Dinosaur Jr. served as the second half of the puzzle –- the inspiration to shoegaze’s earliest constituents. And as much as I’ve written about Dinosaur Jr. they were still more important to music history than other, bigger names like Pixies, Sonic Youth, etc.

Unfortunately I found it a bit difficult to acquire bootlegs from that era so you’ll have to just sit and imagine how awesome it was. Or check these out:

(Not on the original YLAOM LP but a kickass cover nonetheless).
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