Considered something of a maverick and not known for his interview sparkle J Mascis is some guitar player and songwriter. He’s been fairly consistent for several decades now and that’s no mean feat. through some choppy waters and more style changes this industry moves fast and if you stand still you will get left behind or trampled underfoot unless that is you are at the top of the pile and Dinosaur Jr were certainly that mainly due to this quartet of exemplary releases that dovetailed a new musical wind that blew away plenty of cobwebs and ushered in the likes of Dinosaur Jr and let them just put the music out and perform it without turning everything into a circus and put simply let the music do the talking and boy, did these albums talk.
Starting with ’91s classic ‘Green Mind‘. Originally coming out on Sire Records this was the dawn of a new musical era and with Mascis playing virtually everything on the record this version encapsulates the lot from that period pulling the ‘Wagon’ single and the subsequent non-album EP’s as well as live material from the period it also draws comprehensive sleeve notes from Mojo Magazines Keith Cameron who interviewed Mascis for these releases. ‘Green Mind’ lit the touchpaper and was most definitely something of a flag bearer for what was to follow.
The album still retains that freshness and wall of sound it had back in the early ’90s songs like ‘Puke + Cry’ and the title track was and still are awesome songs and have stood the test of time. The real gold here is pulling together the EP’s tracks like the snarling ‘Pebbles + Weeds’ and the excellent ‘Not You Again’ and the Bowie cover of ‘Quicksand (Wagon Reprise)’ and the feedback riffola of ‘Whatever’s Cool With Me’. Whoever had the wherewithal to pull this together with the live recordings deserves a pay rise.
Disc two sees a previously unreleased live recording from Hollywood from the time the record originally came out that features tracks like ‘the Lung’ ‘Keep The Glove’ and ‘Blowing It’ and the brilliant ‘Freak Scene’ it’s loose and loud but for fans, it’s essential listening. The vinyl sees an edited down tracklist due to the length of the running order but essential in my humble opinion.
‘Where You Been’ – was the band’s fifth record and quickly became the band biggest-selling record. 93 and the world were gripped by Grunge mania and Dinosaur Jr was considered something of a premier league player besides they hit the charts with the first single taken from the record and one of their finest ever tunes – ‘Start Choppin’ became a hit. ‘Where You Been’ sold well over a quarter of a million copies when it came out thrusting the trio into the American top 10. They were no longer an underground band with chart success in most record-buying communities. Having been invited to record a session with John Peel those tracks are collected here on disc two along with another great sounding live recording taken in St Pauls way back in ’93.
I’d not played this album in a number of years but one play brought home how great tracks like the gentle ‘Goin’ Home’ sounds as does the epic ‘Not The Same’.they’ve again pulled in the B sides and other tracks like pulling in the Funky Homosapien track ‘Missing Link’ taken from the Judgement Night soundtrack. But its disc two that fans will be all over from those Peel sessions to the acoustic tracks taken from the Evening Sessions ‘Severed Lip’ and ‘Thumb’ before the eight tracks taken from St Pauls not the best sounding recordings but essential listening for fans. I have in my collection a strange fruit release of a Peel sessions that have more tracks on it but that’s not all here. Regardless another era-defining album that is an essential purchase.
‘Without A Sound‘ came at a cost as long-time drummer Murph bailed on the band leaving Mascis to perform the album almost single handidly. It did achieve further commercial success as this one reached #44 in the US album charts a new high and spawned a couple of big singles in the shape of the albums opening two tracks ‘Feel The Pain’ and the more accessible ‘I Don’t Think So’.
The band had never been so popular and ‘Without A Sound’ also saw them tour extensively in support of the record. I knew it had to happen but this album pulls in b sides and live recordings but four instrumentals is really reaching out to the anoraks amongst us I guess if you want to do an early 90s karaoke.
The second disc sees the band rock up in London with a really excellent sounding recording that kicks off with a blistering ‘Freak Scene’ closely followed by a brutal ‘Out there’ that make up five tracks that are getting their first-ever airing. it also houses a guitar players dream as the band performs a near ten minute ‘What Else Is New’. To be fair there isn’t a great deal of repetition throughout these albums and considering they are made up of sessions and live material you don’t get a dozen takes of ‘Start Choppin’ or ‘the Wagon’ unlike many other reissues labels and bands put out. A great deal of care and attention has gone into these and the quality shines through. As for the live shows included this London one is on another level.
Buy Without A Sound
‘Hand It Over’ The final reissue of the classic era Dinosaur Jr sees the band return in ’97 and many proclaiming that American alternative Rock is dead and buried but Mascis has other ideas. With pretty much the same formula that has served him well he remained somewhat detached from all the drama that was Grunge. I remember putting the CD in the player and the moment ‘I Don’t Think’ broke out it was unmistakable Dinosaur Jr. ‘Never Bought It’ sailed close to a bit of alt prog with the flute but that’s all wiped away with the raw guitar of ‘Nothing’s Going On’. Mascis has an instantly recognizable vocal style but the sound has certainly evolved.
there are experimental moments with the horn on ‘I’m Insane’ but the title might be a declaration to explain the horn who knows? All things change but some things stay the same, ‘Can’t We Move This Along’ has the familiar overdriven bonkers guitar work and the epic ‘Alone’ is right up there with Mascis finest pieces. ‘Getting Rough’ is cotton pickin bluegrass that I never saw coming. Whilst the album eases out with the gentle ‘Gotta Know’ its then the bonus material sees what was originally a bonus disc on the original release of tracks written for a Matt Dillon movie ‘Grace Of My Heart’. ‘Take A Run At The Sun’ is a classic but the punk thrasher of ‘what We Do Is Secret’ is most welcome along with a couple of tracks live From ABC. To round things off and complete this delve into the majestic world of classic dinosaur Jr there are nine tracks recorded live in Stockholm Sweden.
so, in conclusion, it’s fair to say you are gonna need these and in for a penny in for a pound you might have to get the complete set of CD’s and LPs now I’m going to have to ask for a raise on my pocket money because I can’t pass these by.
Buy Hand It Over
Author: Dom Daley