The origins of Dinosaur Jr. begin with the break-up of hardcore band “Deep Wound” in 1983, whereupon drummer J Mascis and Bassist Lou Barlow formed the embryonic Dinosaur. Shortly afterwards with the arrival of drummer Murph, Mascis switched to Guitar/Vocals. After a period of time developing a local fan base (and releasing an album, 1985’s “Dinosaur”), the Dinosaur Jr. ‘sound’ began to take shape, with the dissonant Neil Young inspired playing of Mascis being brought to the fore at the expense of any lingering hardcore influence.
In 1986, shortly after being forced to add the Jr. to their name by an aged country group, the band signed to the SST label owned by Greg Ginn of Black Flag and issued “You’re Living All Over Me”(1987). The record and the bands frenetic shows began to capture the attention of many underground cognoscenti including Thurston Moore and Lee Renaldo of Sonic Youth. This burgeoning reputation was secured by the seminal 1988 single “Freak Scene” and the accompanying album “Bug” (1988) both of which secured rave reviews and significant amounts of play on college radio.
Despite this success all was not well within the band, tension was building between Barlow and the uncommunicative Mascis, in 1989 Mascis split Dinosaur Jr. only to announce the reformation of the band minus Barlow, who formed Sebadoh with a good deal of success.
Mascis and Murph finished their touring obligations with a number of guest bassists (scoring a further minor hit with their cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven”) and took a break for a couple of years. When they returned new bassist in tow (Mike Johnson) the band was fundamentally changed, Mascis now took on many of the recording duties alone. Sire debut “Green Mind” (1991) was a case in hand.
The music business was also changing, with the previously cult underground scene now being brought to prominence, a tour with Nirvana as they themselves were in the process of becoming stars opened many doors for Dinosaur Jr. The groups next album “Where You Been” (1993) emerged as a strong commercial hit, with some reviews declaring Mascis as the ‘Godfather of Indie’ although others felt the group had lost their edge. A similar attitude prevailed on the follow-up “Without a Sound” (the first album without Murph, who had departed to the Lemonheads) although again sales held up well.
Becoming bored of the band Mascis now took a second hiatus to record and tour as a solo act. This would have an effect on the next Dinosaur Jr. album (“Hand It Over”) as when it finally arrived in 1997, Mascis played all the instruments upon it.
This seemed to be the end of Dinosaur Jr. with Mascis dropping the name for his subsequent albums. However as this is being written, Mascis has announced the reformation of the original line-up to play a number of dates a la The Pixies, with new material appearing likely also.