Music

Dinosaur Jr.: Green Mind

Cleaned up a little but raging, alienated and freakin' loud as ever, J makes his uneasy peace with mass distribution.


Dinosaur Jr.

Green Mind

Label: Rhino
US Release Date: 2006-05-16
N/A release date: 1991-02-19
UK Release Date: 2006-05-15
Amazon
iTunes
Dinosaur Jr.

Where You Been

Label: Rhino
First date: 1993-02-09
US Release Date: 2006-05-16
UK Release Date: 2006-05-15
Amazon
iTunes

Dinosaur Jr.'s first three albums, reissued last year by Merge, showed a band rooted in hardcore but not averse to arena-ready rock. Here, after founding member Lou Barlow left the band (actually, he was mostly gone by Bug), J. Mascis continues on this path alone, gradually shedding the punk urgency of his earlier work to hone a slower, more anthemic, mainstream rock sound.

You could make the case that major label pressure, the burgeoning grunge scene or any number of factors influenced the shift in Mascis' sound, but really, he seems to have been headed that way anyway. Listen to Bug again if you have any doubt. Big melodies, soaring guitar solos, doom-y dirges and unexpected vulnerability... all the hallmarks of alternative nation rock were taking shape well before Mascis signed with Sire, before he toured with Nirvana, before he became the godfather for the Seattle's scene.

Green Mind, originally out in February 1991, is the rougher, more immediate of the two, less pristinely produced yet also less prone to the excesses (timpani, string sections) of Where You Been?. It begins with the headlong rush of "The Wagon", all hardcore drumming and super-rhythmic guitar until it breaks for an arena rock falsetto chorus. Mascis' cracked and croaking voice is mostly buried here, his guitar solos brief and soaring. It's the one track where he is backed by a freestanding band -- Don Fleming of Gumball and drummer Murph -- and it has the contagious energy of a walloping live show. Later cuts have an almost jammy euphoria. "Puke + Cry", despite its downbeat title, bounces along on sunny guitar strumming that wouldn't sound out of place at Bonnaroo. And the acoustic "Playing Cloud" is a shimmery bit of Led Zep III folk-bluesiness, the eccentric tones of Mascis' voice only reinforcing the cut's essential melancholy. (His voice, it must be said, takes some getting used to, carrying emotion much more effectively than it does actual tunes.) Of the extra cuts -- "Hot Burrito #2" (a Gram Parsons cover) is the best, capturing the glorious squall and groan of classic Dinosaur Jr. , though the two singles "Turnip Farm" and "Forget It" hold up quite well, too.

Where You Been?, following two years later, is more melodic and heavier, rumbling to life with the distorted dirge of "Out There" and running in unabated proto-grunge glory through "Start Choppin'", "What Else Is New" and "On the Way". Mascis has a steady band for this one, Mike Johnson (later of Caustic Resin) on bass and his old mate Murph pounding out his monstrous rhythms. That foundation seems to liberate him -- his voice sounds more grounded and less damaged, and there are far more of the spiraling, free-wheeling guitar solos on this album than on the previous one. The guitar intros to both "What Else Is New" and "I Ain't Saying" literally soar over the music with grand, arena-sized over-the-topness that owe more to Led Zeppelin than Black Flag. Armed with a major label budget, Mascis goes overboard a couple of times, punctuating his fractured folk ballad "Not the Same" with timpani and hiring an entire string quartet to sweeten "What Else is New?". Still for the most part this is fairly elemental stuff, whether pushed nearly into punk frenzy as on "Hide" or slowed down majestically on "I Ain't Saying". As with Green Mind, the disc is packaged with extensive commentary from Byron Coley and three bonus tracks, a Peel recording of "Hide", gorgeous, meandering acoustic cut called "Keeblin'" and a live version of "What Else Is New?" This final cut, 10 minutes long, opens up the song, giving you a sense for how hard and loud it must have rocked live. The verse-chorus part of this cut peters out at about three minutes, laying the ground for seven more minutes of blistering guitar pyrotechnics, culminating in a flanger-enhanced rollercoaster ride near the end.

The contrast between this live version and the much tamer studio cut is the first inkling that maybe Mascis was holding his fire a bit, and that the Sire brass may have squeezed out some of his anarchic glory. Still, even if they are diluted a bit for mass consumption, these are two seriously rocking albums laid down by an idiosyncratic genius at the very top of his game. The surprise is not that they're less punk than the SST albums or that they veer occasionally into baroquely orchestrated excess. The surprise -- and the triumph -- is that they were allowed to happen at all. There's nothing this raw and ear-shredding coming out of the majors today, that's for sure.

7
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.

Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

‘The Avengers’ Offer a Lesson for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Music

Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Books

First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?

Reviews

HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.

Music

Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Music

How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.

Music

Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.