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Dinosaur Jr – The Black Session – Live in Paris 1993 (Cherry Red)

On April 1st 1992, having bought tickets for the Rollercoaster Tour, on which headliners Blur were sharing the bill with My Bloody Valentine, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Dinosaur Jr., I and the friends who had offered their floor to sleep on made our way to Brighton’s Centre, where these magnificently different acts performed to those assembled. Curated by The J&MC’s Jim Reid and considered a British equivalent to the USA’s Lollapalooza, it gave many, including myself, our first opportunity to hear Dinosaur Jr live, and, fourth on the bill, were to my mind quite different to the other acts on the bill. At the head of this joyous sound was J Mascis, putting his drawling vocals through the mic, and guitar that echoed Neil Young and his contemporaries, while stalwarts Lou Barlow and Murph laid the table, retaining that solid backline.

Here I get the opportunity to relive these sounds, in a performance recorded some 11 months after first seeing the band. Not so far from that Lollapalooza date, Paris played host to the band on the 2nd March 1993 and, for the first time, The Black Session, having been remastered from the original tapes, are offered for your delectation. It starts with ‘Quest’ from the band’s 1985 album Dinosaur, but the second track is a real treat as these grunge heavyweights present their take on The Cure’s ‘Just Like Heaven’ and this works, perhaps even better than Smith’s drawl, contentious I know, but take a listen.

A rather polite audience signifies the next track and in juxtaposition ‘Lung’ begins. Taken from 1987’s You’re Living All Over Me and by this point, a recognisable track, as Mascis sings “…No way to collapse the lung, raise the doubt in everyone…”, with his stern guitar and familiar riff, you can’t but love this number. Performed live, it is even more adorable, with its swooping guitar and Murph’s drums; as I listen I’m in heaven.

The master of ceremonies introduces what follows and I wish I’d paid more attention during my French lessons, as the band launch into the recognisable ‘Freak Scene’, and if you’re unsure, I have to ask, where have you been? The penultimate track on side 1, shows just how raw and loved this band is, from a show recorded at Maison de la Radio, Studio 105 in Paris, 1993 – a fan favourite session that has been remastered from the original tapes. It sounds as fresh as the day it was recorded. I’ve listened both in my headphones and whilst travelling in the car and have to say, either way, I’m left dumb-struck.

Side 2 commences with ‘Drawerings’ and is an opportunity to bathe in Mascis’ New England vocal drawl and his guitar playing eloquence. At times, pinpoint accurate, while others are as sprawled as the greatest modern art. As Jimi Hendrix once sang, it has to be “experienced”, both guitar and vocal. As ‘Budge’ signifies the penultimate track, this steam train rattles on, its riff sounding like the horn at the front of the engine. Then it’s left to ‘Thumb’ to ride until the end of the rails, as it’s clear this performance will soon draw the drapes. A track that was first released in February 1991, this is as near to perfect as a number is going to get. Starting with a brief ride on the phaser pedal, the man at the helm tonight playfully strides in at the end of the first verse singing “…why can’t you move without a goal…” and as we’re left to consider this question, as he sings “…There never really is a good time…”, as I decide that the message is just to swim in this sea of sound. This was a real treat, from a shoegazer the first time around, I don’t think I could fully appreciate the magnitude and sounds that this band had to offer. In my later years, I have fully embraced these sounds and I think that, if anything, I would now consider Mascis and co. to be the godfathers of the scene. The music is rich and this performance displays the band at their 90s peak. Only 9 tracks, but I would encourage anyone to immerse themselves in these 41 minutes of sounds and in the process feel the energy of one of the best bands grunge had to offer.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.