February 9th, 1993, Dinosaur Jr released their fifth studio album Where You Been.
By the time Dinosaur Jr released Where You Been in 1993 the musical landscape as they knew it had been completely turned on its head.
Following the legendarily acrimonious bust-up between singer/guitarist J Mascis and bassist/singer Lou Barlow in 1989, Dinosaur Jr. were a different band altogether. Their first three albums had stirred hardcore, psychedelia, noise, country and metal into a blurry and glorious mess of sludge-pop.
Given that Dinosaur Jr.’s sound, attitude, and influence on those bands spearheading the new alternative rock avalanche emanating from the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere during the early part of the 90’s. One might be forgiven thinking J Mascis would cash in in 1993.
But instead, he stuck to his guns, not straying far from the Dinosaur Jr formula that served him so well and helped anoint him as the high priest of guitar wielding proto-slackers.
Where You Been was the first album recorded by Dinosaur Jr.’s new line-up. For the previous album, Green Mind, Mascis played just about every instrument himself.
The album was recorded with Mike Johnson on bass and Murph laying down drums while Mascis tackled everything else. This was to be drummer Murph’s last recording with J Mascis until 2007’s Beyond.
Mascis explained in an interview with MTV’s 120 Minutes, “It’s the first time we’ve felt like a band for maybe six years, or something. Johnson adds a lot, just having someone that I can get along with musically and personally. It just makes the record better having all the people there contributing something, rather than the last one.”
Where You Been was Dinosaur Jr.’s biggest commercial success up to that point, reaching number 50 in the US and number 10 in the UK. The song “Start Choppin'” was their biggest hit, reaching number 3 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart in the U.S., and the Top 20 of the UK Singles Chart.
The album is occasionally moody and dark but always rowdy and fun. Opening track “Out There” has become a Dinosaur Jr classic, with its panoramic, fuzzed out chord structure. It’s one of the finest songs Mascis has recorded, with a beautiful chorus filled with longing and a guitar solo that rips and shreds with passion and precision.
“Start Choppin” immediately follows. Built on a catchy riff that prime Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers would be proud of. It’s a song so filled with great hooks it became as close to a radio hit as the band ever had. Of course, J throws in another face-melting solo that only enhances the fun of it all.
New facades to Mascis’ songcraft edge through on Where You Been. The lazy, melodic drawl of “Not The Same” nods its hat to Neil Young. Get Me, one of the album’s standout tracks, is a simple but perfect country strum sent into the heavens by wave after wave of wracked, ecstatic guitar soloing.
Where You Been was proof that the second chapter of Dinosaur Jr’s career was equally as entertaining as the first. J Mascis and Dinosaur Jr may have evaded any true Nevermind-esque commercial crossover. But with this ragged masterpiece, one of rock’s best kept secrets continued to cement themselves into the annals of American alternative rock history as forefathers and pioneers. “Where You Been” finds them in their prime.