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Alternative & Indie - Released February 9, 1993 | Cherry Red Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 5, 2016 | Jagjaguwar

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Alternative & Indie - Released February 19, 1991 | Cherry Red Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 23, 1994 | Cherry Red Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released December 14, 1987 | Baked Goods

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Alternative & Indie - Released January 15, 2021 | Baked Goods

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Alternative & Indie - Released February 9, 1993 | Cherry Red Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released February 19, 1991 | Cherry Red Records

In their first five years as a band, Dinosaur Jr. made three records that revolutionized underground guitar music and then promptly imploded. The original lineup of three scrappy Amherst punks had a nearly magical chemistry that always teetered on being derailed by simmering tension between controlling guitarist/vocalist/principal songwriter J Mascis and bassist Lou Barlow. In 1989, Mascis acrimoniously fired Barlow and pushed forward with his own vision for the band. Fourth album Green Mind would be not only the first Dinosaur Jr. record without Barlow's countermelodic bass lines and neurotic songwriting contributions, it would also be their first major-label effort. Released on Sire subsidiary Blanco y Negro in early 1991, Green Mind was more a Mascis solo album than the work of a proper band, with original Dinosaur drummer Murph only playing on three songs and Mascis handling almost all of the instruments. Even so, the overall sound of the album only changes negligibly from the SST classic Bug that preceded it by just 16 months. Buzzy album opener "The Wagon" (with assistance from Gumball's Don Flemming and Jay Spiegel) acts as a milder postlude to Bug's ragged "Freak Scene," and romps like "How'd You Pin That One on Me?" and "I Live for That Look" only slightly dial back the noisy punk din that could sometimes swallow entire songs on the first three albums. Where the chaos and confusion of the band's early days were fueled by youthful anger and frustration, Green Mind found Mascis alone in a room arguing with himself. This becomes more apparent on the album's second half, where the tone mellows greatly on the melancholic and lamenting "Water," the stoned bumble of "Muck," and album highlight "Thumb," a blissed-out ballad heavy on Mellotron flute samples and Mascis' searching guitar soloing. The album ushered in the version of Dinosaur Jr. that would live out the rest of the '90s, with Mascis' lyrical language of slang and vaguities hemming him into a lonely stoner figure and the warm-but-distant tone of the songwriting exposing an enormous debt to Neil Young for the first time in the band's catalog. While he would work with other musicians more collaboratively on successive recordings, Mascis stayed at the center of every decision for the band's major-label run. Green Mind would be the most restless and insular of the four albums, born out of Mascis' band deteriorating under its own weight, leaving him to ramble and shred as his own devices saw fit. At the time of its release, many thought it lacked the power of the original trio, but it's a unique chapter in the band's discography, with some of the best-written songs Mascis would manage. Aptly named, Green Mind finds Mascis shrugging and mumbling as he walks listeners through a guided tour of his stoned, drifting thoughts. © Fred Thomas /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released May 1, 2007 | Baked Goods

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 23, 1994 | Cherry Red Records

By the time of Dinosaur Jr.'s third major-label album, 1994's Without a Sound, the guitar rock landscape was changing, and the band was too. Grunge was a parody of itself, most of the bands who had been signed in the post-Nirvana rush were proven failures, and loud guitars seemed passé. Meanwhile, Murph was gone from the Dinosaur lineup, leaving J Mascis and Mike Johnson to make this transitional album by themselves. The core of the record is built on blown-out guitar-led rockers cast from the classic Mascis mold, with J powerfully handling the drums and destroying speakers with solos and gnarly sludge. His work on the opening "Feel the Pain" is a clinic on how to balance different guitar sounds and tones into a harmonious whole, the solo on "Even You" is wild even by Mascis' standards, and his trademark wandering playing style (displayed magically on "Over Your Shoulder") is in full effect throughout. He and Johnson team up to make some strong-as-cement, heavy-as-a-Miami-summer-night tunes; half the album or more stands shoulder to shoulder with previous work, especially "Feel the Pain," which is destined to be on side one of their eventual greatest-hits collections. Where the album surprises and impresses is on the tracks where J dials down the frantic soloing and pounding chords to delve into sounds that are softer and quietly introspective. The album's second track is the first hint that things are going to be a little different. "I Don't Think So" is a rambling, lovelorn country-rock ballad made supersonic by J's guitar playing and turned blue by his devastatingly sad lyrics. "Outta Hand" is a beautiful acoustic ballad with pianos and synth strings that somehow feels as twisted and torn as any of the group's noise-wracked efforts. The arrangement puts J's cracked vocals right at the front, and he carries the song with a tender grace that few would have imagined at the start of Dinosaur Jr.'s career. "Seemed Like the Thing to Do" is another scaled-down beauty that features lovely guitar lines and more from the (shattered) heart vocals. These songs give the band a new dimension and if they, plus the few songs that trade on layered guitars and nimble melodies instead of gobs of noise, make it seem like the band is getting softer or less interesting, it couldn't be further from the truth. On Without a Sound, J is struggling with many things -- personal sadness, insecurity regarding the band's future, a shifting musical climate -- but the one thing that remains rock solid is his guitar playing and ability to write songs that break a heart as easily as they break guitar strings. It may not be the best Dinosaur album or the most exciting, either, but there's enough growth, tenderness, and good old guitar mangling here to make it well worth exploring. © Tim Sendra /TiVo
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Bug

Alternative & Indie - Released October 31, 1988 | Baked Goods

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 25, 1997 | Cherry Red Records

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Rock - Released February 23, 2021 | Jagjaguwar

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 22, 2007 | Cherry Red Records

"My first ever acoustic performance, and I'm a little freaked out." With those words, then-Dinosaur Jr. frontman J Mascis kicked off the show on this live set (recorded in December 1993), in which the man who'd made his name with bludgeoning volume and über-heavy electric guitar freakouts quietly stripped his songs down to their framework for an evening. While Mascis would get more comfortable with such things over the passage of time (as evidenced on his 1996 album Martin + Me), for a first-time gig in an unfamiliar format, Live at CBGB's sounds surprisingly confident and coherent. Presented in their simplest form, Mascis' songs display a tuneful elegance that sometimes gets lost when pumped through a stack of Marshalls (especially "Not the Same," "What Else Is New," and "Keeblin'"), and while on the first few numbers he tends to overemphasize the natural drawl in his voice, by the end of the show Mascis is in admirable form as both a guitarist and a singer. However, the show on Live at CBGB's apparently set a template for Mascis' future acoustic gigs, since eight of these 12 songs would be repeated on Martin + Me, including the cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Every Mother's Son." Despite this, loyalists will be pleased to hear a fast blast through the non-LP rarity "Throw Down" and a cover of "On the Run" by Greg Sage. If hearing Mascis without electricity isn't your idea of a good time, Live at CBGB's: The First Acoustic Show isn't likely to change your mind, but more open-minded fans will discover that the guy writes great songs and knows how to make them work with or without waves of distortion and feedback crashing behind them. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released December 25, 1985 | Baked Goods

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 13, 2009 | Jagjaguwar

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 25, 1997 | Cherry Red Records

By the late '90s, J Mascis had been through the wringer and back with his band Dinosaur Jr., suffering through over a decade of acrimonious lineup shifts, transitioning from hand-to-mouth indie labels to the majors, and generally riding the waves of the mainstream commodification of alternative rock that defined much of the decade for many fringe-dwelling rock bands. Seventh album Hand It Over followed a three-year break after 1994's Without a Sound, a restrained and inconsistent album that nevertheless gave the band their biggest commercial success. Without a Sound also happened after the departure of longtime drummer Murph, leaving Mascis to track all the drum parts himself and return Dinosaur Jr. to the virtual solo-project status it held for their 1991 major-label debut, Green Mind. The live chemistry of the original lineup would make their material after a 2007 reunion some of their most unexpectedly strong, but from the catalog that came about from Mascis' control-freak tendencies meeting major-label excess, Hand It Over is simultaneously the exhausted last gasp of a fading project and a largely overlooked gem. My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields co-produced the album, and his experimental attitude towards guitar tone and sonic atmospheres can be heard in the spectrum of fuzz that colors Mascis' solos and walls of riffage alike. The lazy drifting tempos, Mellotron flutes, and layers of distorted and acoustic guitars on "I Don't Think" all bring to mind the softer side of MBV's style (not to mention guest vocals from Belinda Butcher on the song's chorus). While the songwriting, lyrics, and soloing are all signature Mascis, there's a dreaminess that was absent from the records leading up to it. This dreamy haze compliments Mascis' eternal-slacker songwriting energy on the yearning "Can't We Move This" and the ambling "Loaded." In addition to the shoegaze undercurrents, the flirtations with extended instrumentation that began with symphonic touches on 1993's Where You Been reach full strength here. This can be as subtle as the stabbing strings on "Can't We Move This" or as blatant as the piccolo trumpet that takes center stage in "I'm Insane." Mascis never loses touch with his guitar-wizard roots, offering up eight-minute album centerpiece "Alone" as Hand It Over's testament to shadowy, Neil Young & Crazy Horse-modeled melancholy. Upon initial release, the record was all but buried by a complete lack of promotion, and it would be ten years before the Dinosaur namesake was reactivated with a reunion of the classic lineup. Despite poor sales, Hand It Over was a hidden highlight, with more good songs, gnarly shredding, and wildly ambitious ideas than most other chapters of Dinosaur Jr.'s ever-weird major-label period. © Fred Thomas /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 22, 1991 | Cherry Red Records

"This is not an album," the liner notes state -- and that's true enough, but some albums are almost as long. Whatever's Cool with Me compiles the complete "Whatever's Cool with Me" single and the European single of "The Wagon," making it an amiable, eight-song stopgap to keep hardcore fans happy between albums. "Whatever's Cool with Me" itself is a loud riffer, not as memorable as "Freak Scene" or "The Wagon," but good enough. It's perhaps most memorable for being the studio debut of bassist Mike Johnson, who provided the stability needed after Lou Barlow's departure to re-establish the trio for its most commercially successful period. Johnson also turns up on the two live tracks: a fine version of Green Mind's "Thumb" and a rough rip through "Keep the Glove." One new studio track, "Sideways," starts with one of J Mascis' best acoustic lines, turning into a slow, relaxed full arrangement with everything from drums to vibes played by Mascis himself. Like this song, the remaining "The Wagon" B-sides also feature Mascis as one-man band. In context, the acoustic "Quicksand" is the most amusing number: originally from David Bowie's Hunky Dory, Mascis changes nothing about the arrangement, but substitutes "the wagon" for "the power" in the lyrics, and begins the song with the melody from another Hunky Dory number, "Andy Warhol." The other songs have more of Dinosaur Jr.'s fuzzy appeal, like the friendly roar and strum of "Not You Again" and the screaming yelps and feedback cropping up throughout "The Little Baby." © Ned Raggett /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released May 6, 2020 | Jagjaguwar

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 7, 2009 | Jagjaguwar