‘Sometimes I don’t thrill you
Sometimes I think I’ll kill you
Just don’t let me **** up will you?
’cause when I need a friend it’s still you…’
Dinosaur Jr’s Freakscene was one of the songs of my teenage years; an off-kilter anthem, it’s messy, grungy style was very much of a piece with the sounds of Nirvana and The Pixies, but offered something else too, a blurred snapshot of emotion that rocked the world of those around me. In these days, you not only bought the single and the album, but the T-shirt too; a purple one with a cartoon dinosaur on it. This would become melted onto your sweat-soaked back as you were flung by a stage-bouncer back into the throng of the mosh-pit.
New from Munro Films in UK cinemas, Philipp Reichenheim’s documentary uses a gold-mine of contemporary footage and interviews to tell the story of Dinosaur Jr, and that means shining a light on J Mascis, the enigmatic lynchpin who created their sound, and bandmates Lou Barlow and Murph. Mascis was a famously retiring character, and as a doc, Freakscene benefits from the lack of attention that’s been paid to the band in the past; this feels like a very small and personal film, with no need for too many extraneous talking heads to tell us how significant the band were in musical history.
In ideal style, the film starts with the song Freakscene played from start to finish; there’s no point in holding back. But the band’s development, and different incarnations, makes for a fascinating trip for fans, who will be amused as the candour with which Mascis and co viewed their mercurial rise. Contributions from the likes of Kim Gordon, Henry Rollins, Thurston Moore and Bob Mould help pin down the band’s appeal; shambolic, yet endearing, Dinosaur Jr were a band well worth cataloguing, and with Mascis on board as a producer, there’s lots of personality in the clips chosen.
Perhaps there’s little here that would encourage new listeners, but this kind of retrospective film is very much made for the long-time admirers of Dinosaur Jr, and right now, scores points as the most detailed account imaginable of the life and times one of indie-rock’s most influential bands. For me personally, it brings back memories of nights at Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom, and the band’s epic 1992 Rollercoaster tour with Blur, My Bloody Valentine and Jesus and Mary Chain. And if you’ve ever wondered where a song like Freakscene might have sprung from, this is as close as you’ll ever get…
Freakscene is in select UK cinemas from October 1st 2021. Thanks to Munro Films for advanced access.