Tracker Pixel for Entry

​Freakscene: Reichenheim Tells the Dinosaur Jr. Story

Cinema | August 21st, 2022

By Greg Carlson 

gregcarlson1@gmail.com

With the documentary feature “Freakscene: The Story of Dinosaur Jr.,”director Philipp Reichenheim (who also uses the handle Philipp Virus) compiles a serviceable primer on the wall of sound produced by one of the seminal power trios of 1980s independent/DIY music. In the 90s, the band would go on to near-mainstream success during the ascendancy of “alternative” rock in the wake of Nirvana’s massive crossover appeal, via regular rotation on MTV programming like “120 Minutes.”

Tracking some of the aesthetics of units like Hüsker Dü and the Pixies, who perfected the loud-quiet-loud dynamic that would inspire so much of Kurt Cobain’s songwriting, Dinosaur Jr. combined beautiful melodies with punishing sheets of distortion and feedback.

Reichenheim is the brother-in-law of Dinosaur bandleader J Mascis, and the proximity affords comprehensive access to the substantial trove of archival photography and video that fans will comb for glimpses of favorite performances and previously unseen surprises.

“Freakscene” is not, however, structured primarily as a deep critical assessment of the group’s musical output and evolution, even though a pretty straightforward chronological account of key recordings guides the narrative. Instead, Reichenheim foregrounds solo talking-head interviews with the notoriously taciturn Mascis, bass player (and Sebadoh and Folk Implosion architect) Lou Barlow, and drummer Murph, who all spend more time recounting frustrations, struggles and disappointments than they do acknowledging peaks and triumphs.

This “no fun” theme contributes to an appropriately grumpy tone, perfectly complemented by the white and gray winter snowscapes in and around Amherst, Massachusetts, where Mascis was born and still resides.

Eventually switching from percussion to guitar, Mascis surprised Barlow – who was certain his fellow hardcore Deep Wound bandmate hated him – by asking him to join Dinosaur. Over the next several years, the band’s commitment to ear-splitting volume, combined with what Barlow describes as the “purity” of Mascis’s far-ranging vision, led to a place at SST and the release in 1987 of “You’re Living All Over Me,” which built the fanbase by leaps and bounds.

In addition to new listeners, the increasingly skillful guitar wizardry practiced by Mascis drew fellow musicians to the Dinosaur enterprise. Sonic Youth, known for championing and nurturing up-and-coming artists, recognized something special.

Both Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore appear in “Freakscene,” along with vintage footage shot on tour by Lee Ranaldo. And while the interview subjects rarely dig into specifics beyond the expected construction of band-as-dysfunctional-family, the presence of luminaries like Bob Mould, Frank Black, Kevin Shields, Henry Rollins, Kurt Vile, and Megan and Maura Jasper broadens the film’s appeal.

During the movie’s fleet running time, a great many aspects of Dinosaur Jr. are treated casually, offhandedly, or are skipped altogether. There is no doubt that some longtime fans would have salivated over a deeper dive into the details of songcraft and lyrics, but Reichenheim matches the content of his film to the personality of the band being profiled.

In other words, Mascis largely remains an enigma, even following a confessional description of fatherhood and his personal journey toward Hindu spiritualism. One imagines, however, that the soft-spoken composer remains quite content to speak through the music.

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

Recently in:

By Laura Simmonslaurasimmons2025@u.northwestern.eduHowes Township is frustrated with a court decision and a 2019 bill that lessened local control, giving it back to the state. Howes Township has been fighting the addition of a…

By Michael M. Miller  michael.miller@ndsu.eduPhoto credit: Sabrina HornungIn May 2022, the Rauter family of Wisconsin visited the Germans from Russia Heritage…

Fargo City Hall, thru Sept. 30  Fargo City Hall, 225 4th St. N.  …

By Faith Dixon  Faithshieldsdixon@gmail.com Guest editorial: ‘I am here to create, make and sustain true change’Being an activist is my purpose,…

By Ed Raymondfargogadfly@gmail.com From Mansion or Hovel, We All End Up DeadWe are now living in the Divided States of America, which has been developing for more than 240 years. Economist Frederic Bastiat has come up with the main…

Well shiver me timbers. After weeks of sampling some of the finest drinks in F-M from more bars than we could shake a belaying pin at, the results of High Plains Reader’s 6th Annual Cocktail Showdown are in! For nine weeks,…

By Rick Gion  rickgion@gmail.comIn this land of hotdish and ham, it used to be a real pain to find something satisfyingly spicy in the…

By Chris Larson  cjlarson75@gmail.comDuring a short break in their Wheels of Soul Tour with Los Lobos and the Gabe Dixon Band, I had a chance to…

By Greg Carlsongregcarlson1@gmail.comMaking her English-language feature debut, Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Smoczyńska fails to replicate the quality and originality of either of her previous two movies. Both “The Lure,” which…

By HPR Staffsabrina@hpr1.comTour the studios of some of F-M’s most popular artistsThe Fargo-Moorhead area’s largest art event, the Studio Crawl, is just around the corner—October 1 and 2. The members of the Fargo Moorhead…

By Jessica M. Hawkesjmhawkes84@gmail.comIt wasn’t long after the founding of the railroad and river town of New Rockford that entertainment venues started to put down their own roots. Its population bolstered by booms of nearby…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comCharlie Berens is a man of many hats. The creator of the “Manitowoc Minute” is a newsman, comedian, writer and musician. We had the opportunity to speak with the Wisconsin native about his new…

By Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comSpring is here (mostly), and our area is buzzing with people eager to get back out and about -- many newly vaccinated and feeling a bit safer. Partnering with Jade Events, Fargo Brewing is just…

By John Showalter  john.d.showalter@gmail.comThey sell fentanyl test strips and kits to harm-reduction organizations and…

By Donna O’Shea  submit@hpr1.comWith the back-to-school season in full swing, the start of this academic year may…

By Andrew Alexis Varvelmr.a.alexis.varvel@gmail.comWill our congressperson be Cara Mund or Kelly Armstrong?Back 75 years ago in 1947, American radio stations played the hit song “Feudin' and Fightin'.” Its refrain went,…