Top 10 Dinosaur Jr. Songs

Dinosaur Jr. Songs

Photo: Johannes Scherman [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]

Dinosaur Jr. is an American alternative rock band formed in 1984 by vocalist and guitarist J. Mascis, vocalist and bassist Lou Barlow, and drummer Murph. Dinosaur Jr. was simply called Dinosaur until legal problems with the name forced them to add Jr. to the band name. Dinosaur Jr. mixed their love of punk bands such as The Replacements, heavy metal groups like Black Sabbath, and hard rock and country rock bands like Neil Young and Crazy Horse and The Byrds. Dinosaur Jr. mixed elements of their eclectic influences to create a sound that was wholly their own.

Dinosaur Jr.’s sound was based around hard rock guitar riffs, heavy use of distortion and feedback, and J. Mascis’ trademark high-pitched vocals. Mascis fired Barlow in 1989 and replaced him with Mike Johnson. Mascis began tightly controlling the sound of Dinosaur Jr. By the nineties Mascis recorded almost all of the music himself and then compiled it through layering. Murph left the band in the mid-1990s. Mascis wrote and recorded all of Dinosaur Jr.’s material by that point. Dinosaur Jr. officially disbanded in 1997 and Mascis pursued a solo career.

The original Dinosaur Jr. lineup reunited in 2005 and they have been touring and recording ever since. Dinosaur Jr. was a huge influence on the grunge and alternative rock explosion of the early nineties. Dinosaur Jr. influenced major grunge and alternative bands such as Sonic Youth, Mudhoney, and Nirvana.

# 10 – Just Like Heaven

Originally written and recorded by The Cure. Dinosaur Jr. had their first big hit when they covered “Just Like Heaven.” “Just Like Heaven” was released as a single in 1989. Dinosaur Jr.’s cover features a faster tempo and the heavily distorted guitar and wild solos that J. Mascis was becoming known for. “Just Like Heaven” was an important milestone for Dinosaur Jr. as it gave them their first mainstream exposure. Robert Smith of The Cure was quoted saying he preferred Dinosaur Jr.’s cover to his own version of “Just Like Heaven.”

# 9 – Let it Ride

This hard-rocking song was released in 1988 by SST Records. SST also released albums by Dinosaur Jr.’s alternative rock contemporaries Sonic Youth and The Meat Puppets. “Let it Ride” appears on Dinosaur Jr.’s third release, the critically acclaimed Bug“Let it Ride” has a fast, punk rock rhythm with elements of folk rock and hard rock mixed in. “Let it Ride” is known for Barlow’s bass solo. The end of “Let it Ride” features a noisy and extended heavy metal-style guitar solo. “Let it Ride” contained many of the same elements as Dinosaur Jr.’s earlier work but was more precise and refined.

# 8 – Repulsion

The first single ever released by Dinosaur Jr. “Repulsion” appeared on Dinosaur Jr.’s first album 1985’s Dinosaur“Repulsion” features an upbeat rhythm section. “Repulsion” is based on distorted and undistorted riffs. Mascis’ vocals are high-pitched, seeming melancholy and detached. Mascis plays several complex guitar solos throughout “Repulsion.” “Repulsion” introduced Dinosaur Jr.’s unique mix of hard rock riffs, heavy metal soloing, and folk rock style melodies.

# 7 – Sludgefest

Released by SST Records on Dinosaur Jr,’s second album You’re Living All Over Me“Sludgefest” features many of the components that would come to dominate Dinosaur Jr.’s sound in the years to come. “Sludgefest” is based around J. Mascis playing heavy riffs, soaring, distorted guitar solos, a tight, driving rhythm from Barlow and Murph, and Mascis’ high-pitched, melodic, and melancholy vocals. All of these elements would be refined as Dinosaur Jr. developed their distinctive sound.

# 6 – I Don’t Think So

From Dinosaur Jr.’s sixth album, 1994’s Without a Sound“I Don’t Think So” has lyrics about a lost love. “I Don’t Think So” was released on the major label Reprise records. “I Don’t Think So” is based on layered and distorted rhythm guitar parts. “I Don’t Think So” contains many of the elements of Dinosaur Jr.’s earlier material but is more polished and refined. Murph’s departure meant that every instrument in “I Don’t Think So” was recorded by Mascis. The change in the lineup gave Mascis tighter musical control but without its original members Dinosaur Jr. lost some of their heavier aspects in favor of a lighter indie rock sound.

# 5 – Feel the Pain

Released on Dinosaur Jr.’s fourth album, 1994’s Without a Sound“Feel the Pain” was the first Dinosaur Jr. song not to feature Murph on drums. J. Mascis played all of the instruments in “Feel the Pain” himself.“Feel the Pain” was more melodic than Dinosaur Jr.’s earlier releases. The absence of Barlow and Murph gave “Feel the Pain” a less heavy, more mainstream sound. “Feel the Pain” still makes use of Mascis’ trademark guitar with heavy riffing and noise rock-style solos contrasting with his gentler, more melodic voice.

# 4 – Start Choppin’

A single from Dinosaur Jr.’s 1993 release Where You Been“Start Choppin” was Dinosaur Jr.’s most popular song. “Start Choppin” is one of Dinosaur Jr.’s more restrained and melodic songs in contrast with their heavier material. “Start Choppin” hit number twenty on the UK singles chart and number three on Modern Rock Tracks.

“Start Choppin'” is based around a catchy, distorted riff and Mascis’ high-pitched vocals. “Start Choppin'” features some of Mascis’ best guitar work, mixing elements of punk, classic rock, and metal into an entirely new sound. “Start Choppin'” was the last Dinosaur Jr. song to feature Murph on drums until 2007.

# 3 – The Wagon

The first track from Dinosaur Jr.’s 1991 album Green Mind“The Wagon” was released as a single through Subpop Records. Subpop also released music by their contemporaries, the grunge bands Mudhoney and Nirvana“The Wagon” was the first Dinosaur Jr. song not to feature bassist, vocalist, and founding member Lou Barlow. “The Wagon” has a fast, hardcore punk rock sound to it contrasting with Mascis’ mournful vocals.

“The Wagon” features backup singers showing that Dinosaur Jr. was continuing to experiment with their sound into the ’90s. “The Wagon” had a surge of popularity after it was featured on the video game Rock Band. “The Wagon” features a noisy, soaring guitar solo and indie pop choruses. “The Wagon” finishes with a brief storm of feedback played by Mascis.

# 2 – Out There

Written, recorded, and produced by J. Mascis for Dinosaur Jr.’s fifth album, 1993’s Where You Been“Out There” is one of Dinosaur Jr.’s more upbeat hard rock songs. “Out There” contains a masterful guitar solo from Mascis with heavy use of distortion, feedback and hard rock riffs. The music of “Out There” is somewhat evolved from Dinosaur Jr.’s usual hard rock, drums guitar, and bass formula. “Out There” also features the use of chimes in addition to Dinosaur Jr.’s guitar-heavy sound. “Out There” reached number forty four on the UK charts.

# 1 – Freak Scene 

Written and produced by lead vocalist and guitar player J. Mascis. “Freak Scene” is the first track on Dinosaur Jr.’s third album, 1988’s Bug“Freak Scene” demonstrated the original lineup’s trademark mix of distortion and feedback along with Mascis’ drawling vocals and a heavy rhythm section featuring Barlow and Murph. Barlow was kicked out of Dinosaur Jr. after Bug was released, returning in 2007. “Freak Scene” is an alternative rock staple that helped to shape the nascent grunge and indie rock movements of the following decade. “Freak Scene” reached number twelve in the UK indie charts.

Updated July 11, 2023

Top 10 Dinosaur Jr. Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023

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