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Dinosaur Jr - Profile

  by Mark Rowland

published: 26 / 8 / 2006

Dinosaur Jr - Profile


After Lou Barlow's departure from influential late 80's grunge group Dinosaur Jr the band carried on with J Mascis taking the helm. Mark Rowland looks at the band's first post-Barlow albums, 'Green Mind' and 'Where You Been' which have been reissued

Lou Barlow’s dramatic departure from Dinosaur Jr in the late 80's could easily have spelled the end for the band. Though singer/guitarist J Mascis was the obvious leader of the band, the original line-up of Dinosaur were responsible for three incredible records, with at least one (1987’s ‘You’re Living All Over Me’) considered a classic of the time. Despite this, the band soldiered on, with Mascis taking total control of the band’s direction. Now the first two post-Barlow Dinosaur Jr albums, ‘Green Mind’ and ‘Where You Been’ are the latest records to be reissued by Rhino with extra bonus tracks. When ‘Green Mind’ was recorded in 1991, Dinosaur was pretty much just Mascis -after Barlow left the band, the front man decided that it was probably easier to play all parts on the next record himself rather than have to deal with anyone else. The fruit of his labour is a pretty damn good record, which doesn’t quite match the greatness of early Dinosaur. The material builds on the more melodic moments on previous record, ‘Bug’, with the noisier aspects of the band practically non-existent. Opener ‘The Wagon’ was one of the first singles off the record, and is a great, driving rock track with a great vocal hook. ‘Puke + Cry’ and ‘Blowing It’ tread similar ground, with layers of acoustic and electric guitars built around a jaunty rhythm and minor melody. The latter is the better of the two songs, with a great guitar work from start to finish. ‘Flying Cloud’ is the album’s only fully acoustic song, bringing to mind the acoustic moments on ‘Led Zeppelin IV’, apart from, of course, Mascis’ distinctive singing voice. It comes as a surprise on first listen, and is certainly a highlight. ‘How’d You Pin That One on Me’ is the album’s heaviest moment and also the weakest, bar some fantastically powerful drumming. The quality of the track possibly indicates why Mascis took the band in a mellower direction after the demise of the original line-up – perhaps without a band to play the tracks with, it was hard to muster the energy to pull harder tracks off effectively. The noise of earlier albums is not, however, sorely missed; the album has plenty of strong tracks, from the jaunty hookiness of ‘Water’ to the standout melodica-led ‘Thumb’. By the time Dinosaur came to record ‘Where You Been’ in 1992, original drummer Murph was back in the band, as well as new bassist Mike Johnson. As result, the whole record has more of a ‘band’ feel to it – the band rocks a bit harder than on ‘Green Mind’ and the sounds is thicker, with the bass-lines more prominent in the mix. The material generally builds on the sophisticated rock of ‘Green Mind’ and is certainly more consistent than its predecessor. The sludgy catchiness of opener ‘Out There’ glides perfectly into ‘Start Choppin’, one of the band’s best known songs (and my introduction to the band). ‘What Else is New’ is an acoustic/electric guitar battle as heard on ‘Green Mind’, only much better, with a fuller sound and even a string section. ‘On the Way’ proves that Mascis just needs a band behind him to really rock out effectively, with a huge wall of noise riff to match the intensity of ‘You’re Living All Over Me’s ‘Sludgefeast’. Mascis’ less-than-perfect voice falters a little on his falsetto performance of ‘On The Way’, which ends up giving the song a sort of Grandaddy-does-Neil Young feel. ‘Get Me’ is one of the album’s best mellower moments, with a poppy descending chord progression, simple catchy chorus and great drum pattern. ‘Drawerings’ treads similar water as ‘Get Me’ before introducing a huge, chugging riff about halfway in. ‘Hide’ does the opposite, with a sweeter section in the middle of walls of fuzz. The bonus tracks on the two records don’t add much to the records, but the stripped down John Peel session version of ‘Hide’, acoustic songs ‘Keeblin’, and Flying Burrito Brothers cover ‘Hot Burrito #2’ are great tracks in their own rights. ‘Tunip Farm’ and ‘Forget It’ are enjoyable enough, but weaker than the album’s original tracks, and while the ten-minute live version of ‘What Else is New’ demonstrates the sheer power of the band at that point in their career, it is almost all solos, which can be somewhat tiring.

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Dinosaur Jr - Profile

Dinosaur Jr - Profile

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