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Dinosaur Jr. was largely responsible for the return of lead guitar to indie-rock. They were able to inject late-'80s alternative rock with monumental levels of pure guitar noise. The group eventually turned into a vehicle for J. Mascis' songwriting. Over time, Mascis shed his hardcore punk roots and crafted simple songs that were delivered at a crushing volume with shards of feedback.
On their early records, Dinosaur lurched forward, taking weird detours into free-form noise and melodic soloing before the songs are brought back into relief by Mascis' laconic whine. Dinosaur's SST Records laid the foundation for alternative rock's commercial breakthrough in the early '90s and in so doing, became highly respected cult figures.
J. Mascis (b. Joseph D. Mascis) formed Dinosaur Jr. in Amherst, Massachusetts, after his hardcore punk band Deep Wound broke up in 1983. Hooking up with fellow high school student Lou Barlow (bass), Mascis initially played drums in Dinosaur, but shortly afterward, former All White Jury drummer Murph (b. Emmett "Patrick" Murphy), joined the group, and J. moved to guitar. In 1985 the trio released their debut album, Dinosaur, on the Homestead label. The record and the group's crushingly loud concerts developed a cult following over the next year.
In 1987, Dinosaur Jr. signed to Black Flag's indie label SST and released You're Living All Over Me, which became an underground sensation. Early in 1988, they released the seminal single "Freak Scene," a song that captured the feeling and tone of the emerging American post-punk underground. "Freak Scene" became a college radio hit, and it led the way for their acclaimed 1988 album, Bug. In 1989, with tensions growing between the two, Mascis told Barlow that the group was breaking up. The following day he "re-formed" Dinosaur Jr. without Barlow.
In 1989, the group had an underground hit with their cover of the Cure's "Just Like Heaven." After "Just Like Heaven," Mascis spent his time collaborating with friends like Sonic Youth and Fleming's Velvet Monkeys. Green Mind, Dinosaur's 1991 major-label debut, was recorded almost entirely alone by Mascis.
1993’s Where You Been benefited greatly from the commercial breakthrough of alternative rock. It became the first Dinosaur album to chart, peaking at number 50, and it generated the modern rock hit "Start Choppin'".
That summer, Dinosaur Jr. released Without a Sound. In the fall of 1995, Mascis launched his first solo acoustic tour in support of his first official solo album, Martin & Me. Upon its spring 1997 release, Hand It Over was hailed as Mascis' best album in years. By the late '90s, Mascis decided to break up Dinosaur Jr. and launch a solo career
In 2005 Mascis announced the original band would be reuniting for a short tour. Subsequently, they began a worldwide tour and announced plans to work on material for a new album, which surfaced in 2007 in the form of Beyond. The reunion stuck, and the original lineup of Dinosaur Jr. eventually released Farm in 2009, and I Bet on Sky in 2012.