Note: This band now known as Dinosaur Jr. was simply known as Dinosaur on their first album. I will, however, refer to them as Dinosaur Jr. for the review to avoid confusion.
Dinosaur Jr.‘s 1985 debut album, Dinosaur, is a white-noise album in the vein of Sonic Youth, another band that used punk and psychedelia flooded with sound to create a girth of atmospheric noise, pummeling its audience with their sonic attack. Seeming reckless and random, there is an amateur volley of musical energy realized on the onset with the first track “Forget the Swan” (or “Bulbs of Passion,” depending if you have the remastered version or not).
In "Bulbs," you will hear fine stop-go-and explode beat patterns that make it apparent that Dinosaur Jr. laid the groundwork for the genre of grunge. The soundscapes throughout the album are often somber and the stratosphere of noise creates a rush to make it sometimes unique, but mostly boring. Basically, this three-piece unit’s sound came from just letting the speakers go at high volume, and then wailing on their instruments. Singer/guitarist Jay Mascis’ vocals sound identical to that of Kurt Cobain, and quality-wise there’s these two tracks, and then mostly duds, as the band did not perfect its sound as it would on subsequent albums, such as You‘re Living All Over Me and Bug. Each song is done with a still-learning attitude that may be hard to listen to, but may tell the listener that they will go on to bigger and better things.
“Forget the Swan” features bassist Lou Barlow’s singing; his scruffy, nasal voice is pretty poetic, while the melodies and the dance between complete rock-out riffs and restrained minimalism are memorable enough to convey an emotion, thus making the tune as emotional as anything in the era, though it might not be as flawless as other songs of its ilk. The sonic haze dissipates, sadly, for less successful slower songs, such as “Pointless” and “Cats in a Bowel.” “The Leper” and “Does It Float” are somewhat fun, but mostly ineffective, simplistic and obvious examples of clunky experimentation.
“Repulsion,” “Gargoyles” and “Severed Lips” are also tracks that do not quite live up to what would come. Like some of Sonic Youth’s first songs, the band seems unsure of themselves; although Dinosaur Jr. was pretty efficient even back then at noise, the balance between that and melody is not attained as great at this early point in their career.
Despite this misfire, most of their career, including their comeback album in 2007, Dinosaur Jr. brought guitar rock back to the mainstream, and much like the Pixies, Nirvana and Fugazi, they defined and invented a new generation of alternative rock, cultivating it as a genre to be reckoned with
This later noise lyricism harvested a new breed of young and ambiguous rockers that are still influenced by their music to this day. That, my friend, is what rock and roll is about: improvement. So when you listen to their other albums, make sure to crank the dial loud, to then be immersed in a tidal of bass wails and guitar solos. Oh yea, and don‘t forget to tell your mom that you will need to keep the turntable blasting all night, because that’s what Dinosaur Jr.’s music is made for.