More than any of its peers from late-'80s indie rock, Dinosaur Jr. seemed to completely embody the lo-fi/slacker ethos. His amplifier cranked to 11, singer/guitarist J. Mascis directed the trio with unkempt guitar sludge that buried everything in sight, including his own cracked, sleepy tenor. In interviews, he sounded like he was perpetually on the verge of dozing off and his vocal style left a similar impression. The BBC Sessions collects ten live-in-studio recordings, the bulk of which date from the early years of the group. Although the music benefits from a less claustrophobic sound, the performances themselves rarely stray far from their studio counterparts. Early songs like "Bulbs of Passion" and "Does It Float" (from the 1985 debut Dinosaur) mix late-'80s indie rock with bloodcurdling metal. The group hit its stride two years later, however, settling on the sound explored over the next several years: a combination of early, amelodic Sonic Youth; the forceful, driving rock of Hüsker Dü (both labelmates on SST); and Mascis' bursts of Neil Young-style guitar leads. "Keep the Glove," "In a Jar," and "Raisins" are all fine selections from this period, which produced their underground triumph, You're Living All Over Me (1987), and its acclaimed follow-up, Bug (1988). Mascis' approach to writing and recording didn't so much evolve, however, as mellow with age. By the time of 1993's Where You Been, with Dinosaur Jr. essentially his solo vehicle, the clouds of distortion had thinned, and the guitar explorations expanded. "Get Me" and "Keeblin" (the only material on BBC that dates after 1992) are given acoustic-heavy readings that highlight Mascis' underrated songwriting gifts but reveal his shortcomings as a performer. With very little differentiating individual Dinosaur Jr. albums, most listeners will be satisfied with a single studio collection. BBC Sessions should be reserved for the rare die-hard fan.
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AllMusic Review by Nathan Bush