March 26, 2018 Dinosaur Jr. – Where You Been 25 Years Later
Unarguably, one of the bands that laid down the foundation of what became Alternative Rock is Dinosaur Jr., which catapulted to the center of the flourishing Rock scene in the 1990s via their fifth album, Where You Been. Along with other influential batchmates of theirs such as Sonic Youth (“Teen Age Riot”), Pixies (“Where Is My Mind?”), The Smashing Pumpkins (“Cherub Rock”), and Nirvana (“Lithium”), they established Alternative Rock as a legitimate genre and made the ’90s American Rock scene vibrant and exciting.
Formed in 1984, in Amherst, Massachusetts, United States, by J Mascis (vocals, guitar), Lou Barlow (bass, vocals), and Murph (drums), Dinosaur Jr. have been releasing albums since the mid-’80s. Although, it was only in the advent of the ’90s when their hard work got to be recognized as influential to the whole scene.
The enduring and prolific Dinosaur Jr. has 11 studio albums under its name, from 1985’s Dinosaur to 2016’s Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not. If you are planning to give the American band’s music a good, timely roundup – which you should – then the best record to start with is Where You Been – for aside from this being the band’s breakthrough album, it also turned silver last month. Yes, 25 years, and yet the songs sound relevant and unageing!
Released on February 9, 1993, on Blanco y Negro/Sire Records, Dinosaur Jr.’s fifth oeuvre remains the trademark template of what the band’s music is all about – sweet-and-sour jellybeans juxtaposition of melody and noise; a good balance of upbeat and slow songs; driving basslines of Mike Johnson, the band’s bass player at the time; and, most distinctively, the languid, gravelly, and relaxing voice of Mascis.
Where You Been opened with the upbeat, rhythm-driven “Out There,” whose angst-ridden guitar ad-lib was effectively balanced by Mascis’ trademark cool, twin-vocal approach. Followed next was the subtly angular “Start Choppin’,” – the song that catapulted Dinosaur Jr. to the center of the then fledgling Alternative Rock scene in the 1990s. A change of vibes, “What Else Is New” was a slow trudge into the countryside; still musically rockin’ yet glazed with the grace of orchestral flourishes and sung by Mascis in a more sentimental manner.
“On the Way” returned the listener to the frenetic tendencies of Dinosaur Jr.’s music, but Mascis’ voice was sweetly languid as ever. Another Baroque Pop-inspired excursion came next in the form of the almost acoustic “Not the Same,” and then the trio expressed again their Country Folk predisposition with the similarly styled “Get Me” and “Drawerings.”
The unassuming “Hide” then shifted the gear a few notches higher, seemingly picking up where the opening track left off… not here, but out there, joining the league of fellow melodic and shoegazey Noise Rock songs of the times, such as The Dambuilders’ “Shrine,” The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Drown,” and Sloan’s “Median Strip.”
The penultimate track, “Goin’ Home” was an apt organ-drenched, near-end tune – eerie, somber, rustic, and nostalgic; where Mascis employed his drawl-falsetto vocal styling to maximum effect. Finally, he and the rest of Dinosaur Jr. wrapped off Where You Been with the funky, choppy, anthemic, big sound of “I Ain’t Sayin’.”
Thirty-four years since their formation, and yet Dinosaur Jr. is still up and churning new music. So much melodies and noise have passed through Alternative Rockers’ ears over the years, but Where You Been will always be a definitive landmark album in the history of Alternative Rock music. Celebrate its anniversary by giving it a spin and cranking the volume up just enough to make your ears ache in sweet surrender and also to remind yourself where you were 25 years ago and where you have been since then. Give yourself a glimpse of what you were and what you have become, on a backdrop of the delectably noisy and achingly mellifluous music of Dinosaur Jr.