Review Summary: J. Mascis releases his first "solo album". And annoyingly, it's actually pretty good.
Dinosaur Jr. are a difficult band to pigeonhole. A lot of the time their releases border on grunge, metal, alternative rock, and yet the distinct impression is given of the band that they're either too lazy or too short on cash to implement proper production on their releases. This is confusing, as metal traditionally is a loud and bombastic genre, and to call something that often comes across as more like R.E.M. than Megadeth truly 'metal' is a crime in itself, let alone seeming really odd.
So Dinosaur Jr. are an alternative rock band. But by no means are they your self conscious, hairdo obsessed, wine drinking alt rockers. They come with the metal attitude, beer swilling, headbanging and sleeping in till 3pm, and their music and lyrics reflects this lifestyle.
Green Mind is the band's 4th album, and by this point the cracks had not only began to show in the infrastructure, they'd began to splinter and destroy the band right through the middle. Lead singer and songwriter J. Mascis was known for being an intolerable prick, perfectionist, control freak. His general lack of any communicative skills with his band members had eroded the band's image and friendship and put it onto boiling point since their first record, and by their 4th release, Mascis had pushed his band to the absolute limit, bassist Lou Barlow walking out after Bug, going on to form Sebadoh (obviously having had enough of Mascis dictatorship that was his band). Drummer Murph was still there, but only just, drumming on just three tracks on Green Mind, and presumably getting wasted and starting fights with J. on the other ten songs.
And indeed, it does actually seem completely pointless to label this release as a Dinosaur Jr. one. It is, in sound, style, production and lyrics, but the use of 'Dinosaur Jr.' was one that applied to Murph, and Barlow, and they were extremely notable and noticeable in their absence.
The tracks on here are great though, which is a hugely bizarre contrast, in many ways you would like to see J. fail without the support of his band, but it becomes absolutely plain to see he was, and still is the driving force in Dinosaur Jr., just by looking at the quality on show on Green Mind. Opener, The Wagon was released as a single on Sub-Pop, and did remarkably well, while Blowing It trundles and jumps along it's own path, just the great Dinosaur Jr. tracks do, with J. doing his best most sincere impression of Neil Young throughout.
Flying Cloud is another great one, acoustic and rambling but with brash and harsh metal interjections of a bass drum, while Water follows the same route. The title track is the best thing off the album though, a roving alternative rock classic which shows up Mascis as everything he is, a great songwriter, a loner, and an inventive guitarist, cemented by the feedback driven snake of a guitar solo.
It's not that J. is an intolerable and whiny bastard, that's the problem, he isn't. He comes across as an introspective, fun, and wild party animal. And it is in this contrast that Dinosaur Jr. unleash some of their greatest works; the juxtaposition between what they actually are, and what they sound like they are. The band keeps a brave face, and were it not for intrusive interviews and public assumption, the band probably would have kept on releasing great albums as a band, all written by it's enigmatic songwriter, until one of them finally snapped and killed J. in a heated rage. And I wouldn't blame them.