February 19th, 1991. Dinosaur Jr released their fourth album Green Mind. The album was their first on a major label.
It was the band’s first release after bassist Lou Barlow’s departure. In fact it could be considered a J Mascis solo album with founding drummer Murph only featuring on three tracks and J playing all other instruments.
In their first five years, Dinosaur made three highly influential records that revolutionised underground guitar rock and sent shockwaves through the community. The original line-up of J Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph, three unkempt punks from Amherst, Massachusetts, was a potent mix of undeniable musical chemistry and personal dysfunction that threatened to derail the whole show at every turn.
In 1989, simmering tensions between Mascis and Barlow caused an acrimonious split. Mascis fired Barlow and pushed forward with his own vision for the band. The following album, Green Mind would be their first without the neurotic song-writing contributions of Barlow, it was also their first on a major label.
Released on Sire subsidiary Blanco y Negro, February 19th, 1991. Green Mind was more a Mascis solo album than the work of a band, having said that, the overall sound of the album changes very little from Bug, the album that preceded it by just 16 months.
Album opener The Wagon (with assistance from Gumball’s Don Flemming and Jay Spiegel) which was previously the A-side of a 1990 Sub Pop single, maintained the momentum created by ‘Freak Scene’ their underground “hit” single from Bug.
How’d You Pin That One on Me? and I Live for That Look only slightly dial back the punk infused racket that permeated the first three albums.
The wild abandon and chaos of Dinosaur Jr’s first three albums was born of anger and frustration, Green Mind is the sound of J Mascis locked in a room battling himself. In retrospect it’s amazing to listen to Green Mind and realise that this was an album recorded almost entirely by Mascis alone. At just 25, he showed a profound talent for composition and an ability to translate it to tape.
The album ushered in the version of Dinosaur Jr. that would live out the rest of the ’90s, with Mascis’ assuming the role as high priest of slacker alternative rock. Often cast as a lonely stoner figure.
While he would work with other musicians more collaboratively on successive recordings, Mascis stayed at the centre of every decision for the band’s major-label run. Green Mind would be the most restless and insular of those four albums, born out of Mascis’ band deteriorating under its own weight, leaving him to ramble and shred as his own devices saw fit.
According to Mascis, the Green Mind sessions weren’t so much lonely for him as they were tranquil.
“I didn’t have the stress of Lou, and so I was just psyched to record,” Mascis explains. “For me, it was fun just kind of building up the songs and playing everything. It’s definitely a weird-sounding album, and I question some of the choices I made in the process. When I hear it, it definitely sounds odd; it’s definitely got its own sound, but it’s just, like, not exactly the sound of a band.”
Mascis adds: “I look back on Green Mind with fondness. It was our first major label experience, which was good, because it was a lot different than the indie labels I had been on that were shady and never paying. They just gave you the money to make the record, and you just gave ‘em the record. They never said anything or had any input, which I liked at the time. I hear things on the album I would like to change and stuff, but generally, I like it and I’m glad that people like it.”