Dinosaur Jr‘s major label debut Green Mind promised greatness, and 1993’s Where You Been masterfully delivered. Sensing they worked best as a power trio, J Mascis brought in Mike Johnson on bass and Murph on drums. The new lineup debuted on Whatever’s Cool With Me, then spent the next year touring and becoming a hell of a band. Where You Been came from this sudden growth spurt, and Cherry Red‘s reissue only enhances it further.
Where You Been is heavy. Mascis has always been a masterful guitar player, but it’s here where he becomes a rock god. The sheer electricity from opener “Out There” stands as one of Mascis’s finest moments on record. Furthermore, it’s something entirely new sounding. It’s a blending of harder classic rock (think Blue Oyster Cult) tempered with sheer metal guitar solos. Yet Mascis’s laconic vocal style turns this otherwise uptempo hard rocker into a weird form of rock ballad, resulting in familiar rock sounds presented in a quite unique style.
Thankfully, Dinosaur Jr thoroughly explore this new sound throughout the rest of Where You Been. The second track, “Start Choppin’,” offers a catchy guitar lick, with the band offering a unique blend of hard rock with a soulful bent thanks to J hitting some impressive high notes. “Not The Same,” a straight up ballad that’s almost entirely sung in falsetto, finds Mascis going out of his comfort zone–and succeeding. “Get Me” is another superb melancholic ballad; unsurprising, then, that the song became a minor hit in those heady alt-rock days. “Hide” and “I Ain’t Sayin” explore a nice blues-rock style, while “What Else Is New” and “On The Way” simply rock.
This expanded edition serves as a document of Dinosaur Jr’s busy year. The first disc concludes with a handful of b-sides, including a fantastic cover of “Hot Burrito #1” featuring Matt Dillon. “Missing Link,” contribution to the hip-hop/alt-rock crossover soundtrack Judgment Night, features Del The Funky Homosapien rapping over J’s funky wacka-jawaka guitar lick.
The second disc contains a half-dozen BBC recordings; largely acoustic, a Peel Session reading of “Get Me” being drop-dead gorgeous and the gem of this reissue. A full set from one of the band’s Lollapalooza appearances concludes the package. Though a somewhat muddy recording, the potency of the performance make up for it. Newer songs “Start Choppin'” and “Out There” burn nicely, while older tracks “Budge” and “Raisans” rage. “Sludgefeast” closes the set, a highly beloved live number that translated well into the arena format of the tour.
The album raised the band’s profile, but the Lollapalooza appearance ultimately didn’t matter. After the tour, Murph quit the group, leaving the band a two-piece. Where You Been‘s more than modest success meant a quick return to the studio.After all, at the time it was the band’s best album to date, and remains a beloved moment in their discography. Yet such success created new pressures and expectations. Tempered with personal crises, life weighed heavy on the duo as they began working on their sixth album….
Purchase: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Cherry Red