If “Freak Scene” (and their slighly askew cover of “Just Like Heaven”) were indicators that Dinosaur Jr were something new and different in the indie-rock world, then “The Wagon” — and to a lesser extent, Green Mind — sealed it.
Green Mind was the first Dinosaur Jr album not to feature Lou Barlow — something that became more important in retrospect as Barlow started demonstrating his songwriting chops — but it suffered a bit as Mascis spent the vast majority of the album overdubbing himself like Prince or Todd Rundgren.
Unlike “Freak Scene,” which lived up to its name with a completely unconventional song structure, “The Wagon” is slightly more conventional. And by “conventional,” I mean that not only does it have an actual chorus — Mascis pleading “Baby, why don’t we?” over and over again — there’s even a bridge before the guitar solo.
Oh, who am I kidding? “The Wagon” is every bit as beautifully weird as “Freak Scene,” twisting and turning so just when you think you’ve got a grasp on it, Mascis goes in a completely different direction, right from the very beginning, which instantly fades up and into his singing.
There’s a way I feel right now
Wish you’d help me, don’t know how
We’re all nuts so who helps who
Some help when no one’s got a clue
Should I point out that this is incredibly catchy? Not just this opening section, but the whole damn song.
“The Wagon” is basically a collection of a half-dozen hooks anchored to a half-dozen roaring guitars. And I haven’t even mentioned the hookiest part, the harmonized falsetto “You won’t see me” that comes in for the later verses and echoes throughout the rest of the song, even drawing attention from another typically excellent guitar solo.
With Mascis’ sublimely sad vocals becoming ever more expressive, the plethora of hooks, and the typically punky energy powering the song from the first, the only reason that “The Wagon” isn’t as revered as “Freak Scene” is that “Freak Scene” came first.
“The Wagon” performed live on Late Night With David Letterman, 1992
Official video for “The Wagon” (Single version)