Dinosaur Jr.

Freak Scene

Composed by J Mascis

Song Review by

The opening track to Dinosaur Jr.'s third album, Bug, remains one of the brightest moments of the post-punk era. Predating Nirvana's breakthrough hit, "Smells Like Teen Spirit," by three years, "Freak Scene" hinted at the latent potential of the then-burgeoning indie rock scene. Kicking in with a simple three-chord progression -- with the tempo up and drums punching through a wash of open, high-hat cymbals and warm, fuzzed-out bass guitar -- the melody of the song is instantly infectious. Singer J. Mascis relates the state of a messy relationship in a humorously frank, laid-back style: "Seen enough to eye you/But not enough to try you/Dig you much too much to fry you." The band soon breaks into a crunching dynamic workout, with pounding tom-toms and bursts of guitar releasing tension, then veering into a softer, acoustic-driven section, then building again, taking the whole thing up a notch. Mascis is one of those rare guitarists who seems to have the ability to voice emotion while soloing, using the instrument to convey a message that verbal language just can't translate. This can be heard in many Dinosaur Jr. songs and seems to occur twice in "Freak Scene." As the words begin to fail him, the frustration mounts, finally just letting the guitar do the talking: "So fucked/I can't believe it/If there's a way I wish we'd see it/How the words just can't conceive it/What a mess just to leave it." This is followed by a guitar solo. The last verse is both humorous and oddly touching; as the music breaks down to a single guitar, our narrator comes to the realization that these two misfits are stuck with each other, "Sometimes I don't thrill you/Sometimes I think I'll kill you/Just don't let me fuck up will you?/'Cause when I need a friend it's still you/What a mess," followed by a guitar solo. "Freak Scene" is the perfect assimilation of several musical genres, blending pop melody, the crunch of metal, and punk attitude with a dash of acoustic folk and classic rock guitar leads filtered through Mascis' soon-to-be hip, slacker aesthetic. Perhaps hindered by J. Mascis' unconventional vocal drawl, the song would never break into mainstream radio in the U.S., but would receive considerable attention in Europe, and the U.K. in particular, foreshadowing The Year Punk Broke in 1991.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Bug 1988
No Image 1988 SST
Fossils 1991 SST 3:35
Indie Top 20, Vol. 7 1993
Various Artists
Dutch East India Trading 3:36
Ear-Bleeding Country: The Best of Dinosaur Jr. 2001 Rhino 3:37
Left of the Dial: Dispatches from the '80s Underground 2004
Various Artists
Rhino 3:37
All That Punk 2006
Various Artists
WEA International
Best of Dinosaur Jr. 2006 Teichiku Records
Bug: Live at the 9:30 Club, Washington, DC, June 2011 2012 Outer Battery
Bug Live at 9:30 Club: In the Hands of the Fans 2012 MVD Visual
Bernard lenoir l'inrockuptible 2013
Various Artists
EMI 3:37
100 Hits: Dad
Various Artists
Demon Music Group / DMG 100 3:36
Rock Hits [Crimson]
Various Artists
Crimson / Crimson Productions
blue highlight denotes editor's pick