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"When I need a friend, it's still you ..."
on 11 October 2000
It's a shame, maybe even a disgrace to person or persons unknown, that this record isn't more widely available. But then if you plough your own furrow, refuse to follow trends or project an image, disappear for years between records and prove unable to keep a band together, that sort of thing tends to happen.
The career of J Mascis, the man who is Dinosaur Jr, has included playing - briefly - with notorious excrement-throwing dead junkie shock-rocker GG Allin, and refusing to STOP playing on TFI Friday (they just ran the ads over his guitar solo in the end). He's also made a few sterling country-grunge albums, and one heartstoppingly beautiful country-grunge album: 'Bug'.
If Neil Young is the godfather of grunge, J is the man who gave the baby its godfather's address. He has the vocal twang, the guitar twang, the hopeless romantic heartstring twang that Young unwittingly bequeathed to a generation of slackers. He also has Hendrix's pedals, Steve Jones's venom, and every stoned teenager's chagrin at the way things just fail to come together. 'Freak Scene', an indie hit and this album's searing opener, has the lot. On every subsequent track J turns it up another notch - the melancholy, the wah-wah - until the final track, 'Don't', a double barrage of twisted guitars with the line 'Why don't you like me?' barked, screamed and whined repeatedly for five minutes or so.
I don't know why 'Bug' isn't in the shops, why it isn't in top tens, why it isn't the constant companion of the love-lorn and world-weary - at least those of them with a sense of humour. There may be sound musical historical reasons; perhaps 'Bug' was just out on its own, before Young's total rehabilitation and the onset of Nirvana, too far away from the urban artsiness of Sonic Youth, too dewy-eyed for the Amphetamine Reptile crew who dominated underground American rock at the time, too American to break into the burgeoning shoe-gazing scene in the UK.
And I don't really care, because I still have my copy of 'Bug' - nine absolute gems, the highlight probably being the second half of 'They Always Come', when the track segues from Ramones-like garage punk into a soaring psychedelic groove, yearning but ultimately resigned. No, after all I don't care whether anyone else has this. I think I'd rather keep it all for myself.