This ode to a dysfunctional relationship opens Dinosaur Jr.'s third album, Bug. Written and produced by singer-guitarist J Mascis, he told Mojo magazine: "'Freak Scene' is about a relationship with someone you wish it was easier to be in a relationship with - like, it should work out but somehow it won't."
Many interpret the song as drawing on the frustrations between Mascis and bassist Lou Barlow. In fact, Barlow himself believes this, telling Mojo in 2005, "There was a 'Bug' in the ointment, and it was me."
However, speaking to the same magazine 16 years later, Mascis denied the song reflected the tensions within the group, saying with a sigh, "No, it's definitely not about the situation in Dinosaur Jr."
For many critics, the song represents Dinosaur Jr.'s finest hour. A surprisingly catchy number, it throws in a smorgasbord of jangling acoustic verses, ascending harmonies, and Mascis' punk-metal soloing. The track concludes with a satisfying payoff as Mascis stops the guitar axing and drawls:
Cause when I need a friend it's still you
The guitars crash back in and he sighs with helpless resignation:
What a mess
Barlow expressed his astonishment to Mojo that this song is so highly rated, as he doesn't even consider it the best track on the album. "There are much better songs on Bug, like 'They Always Come,' 'Let It Ride, 'No Bones.' I was surprised 'Freak Scene' was so simple and I was also surprised by how much people embraced it."
Mascis and Barlow's personality conflicts continued and Mascis kicked out the bassist the following year. The group disbanded in 1997 before re-forming eight years later with Barlow reuniting with Mascis and drummer Murph.
Blink-182 covered the song on their 1993 debut demo Flyswatter.