If you’ve spent any time over at CoolDad Music, then you know that I harbor a deep and abiding love for all things Dinosaur Jr. As is the case with many of my favorite bands, I came to Dinosaur Jr. upon hearing their major-label (and Lou-, and Murph-less) release. Where You Been?, with its big riffs and radio-ready rock, made such an impression on me that I went immediately to the Dinosaur Jr. back catalog where I found such gems as Bug and You’re Living All Over Me.
During those initial forays, I had no idea of the falling out that had occurred between J Mascis and Lou Barlow, no idea of the animosity that Barlow still expressed over his unceremonious ouster from the band just as they were taking off (It was kind of a dick move). I also had no idea that, over on the West Coast, the Rademaker brothers (Brent and Darren) had gotten together with two of their friends (Kevin Fitzgerald, Josh Schwartz) and had begun making some interesting noise of their own that, initially anyway, drew heavily on those pre-major, everybody was still friends Dinosaur Jr. sounds.
Apparently, not that many people outside of Further’s SoCal scene had any real idea either. Further did appear on bills with indie icons like Pavement, The Flaming Lips, Archers of Loaf, and — significantly — Lou Barlow’s Sebadoh. Unlike J’s 1990s incarnation of Dinosaur Jr., though, Further spurned some major label advances, first starting their own label and then signing on with Creation Records’ Ball Product. They received acclaim in the UK for the Ball Product reissue of their debut LP Sometimes Chimes (9/10 from NME, a John Peel Session), but never really broke Stateside.
Where Were You Then? is a chronological, re-mastered compilation of many of Further’s singles and EP tracks from the band’s roughly 1991-1997 career. It provides an interesting glimpse into the evolution of one of the early 1990s’ “lost” bands.
The second and third tracks on the LP are ringers for early Dinosaur Jr. “Over and Out” and “Generic 7″ do the wall of fuzz / pop hook mix thing just as well as a young J, and the vocals could almost pass as a Mascis impression. According to Further’s press materials, Lou Barlow took the band on tour as support for Sebadoh at least partially to spite J Mascis. NME asked him during the tour if he had anything he’d like to say to J Mascis, and his response was, “Ever heard Further?”
The compilation reveals pretty quickly, though, that Further weren’t a Dino tribute act. They start to dial back some of the noise while turning up the power pop quotient on songs like “California Bummer” and “Quiet Riot Grrrl.” “Wett Katt” trades some of the Dino squall for the swirl and glide of Creation stablemates My Bloody Valentine. Finally, Further begin to venture into Big Star via Teenage Fanclub territory as the album comes to a close on “I Wanna Be A Stranger,” “Be That As It May,” and “Grandview Skyline.” Further retain some of the noise and fuzz, but by the end it seems like it’s there more to create an ethereal, psychedelic effect than to make your eardrums bleed.
J and Lou are back together, touring and cranking out some very solid Dinosaur Jr. records. Further are no more obviously. They are probably just one of several 1990s acts who were making sounds back then that I would have loved if I’d only been paying attention. I’ve been listening to Where Were You Then? for the last couple of weeks, and I can’t help repeating that question in my head.
“Where were you then?”
I just can’t figure out yet whether I’m asking the question of Further or myself.
Where Were You Then? comes out on September 2nd via Bad Paintings.