Dinosaur Jr. – Green Mind
Released February 19th, 1991 on Blanco y Negro Records
Produced by J Mascis
Peaked at #168 US
“The Wagon” (#22 Modern Rock)
By the end of the Eighties Dinosaur Jr. had released two honest-to-god underground classics, 1987’s You’re Living All Over Me and 1988’s marginally more commercial Bug. With major labels snapping up SST bands as though they were made of literal gold, it was only a matter of time before the Mass band got one of their own, especially considering that Bug had hit #1 on the UK indie charts and then stayed on that chart for an impressive 38 weeks. Before that was to happen, though, the band went through a tumultuous lineup change. Founding bassist Lou Barlow got kicked from the band, and the break-up was not amiable. Barlow would go on to form Sebadoh and later score a modern rock hit with “Natural One” as The Folk Implosion. Dinosaur Jr frontman J Mascis would tighten his grip on the band further in the aftermath; it got worse once they signed to a Warner Bros. subsidiary in 1990, with Mascis taking over every instrument in the studio, including the drums. Founding drummer Murph only appears on three songs on Green Mind; everything else is the sound of J Mascis chasing his own particular vision. Billy Corgan did the same thing on Siamese Dream, but J Mascis didn’t end up a weird Alex Jones disciple, so I guess it’s a wash in terms of whether this is a mark of intelligence or not.
Green Mind didn’t exactly make a splash as a major label debut. “The Wagon” did okay as a single but sales were tepid; long-time Dinosaur Jr fans were glad that it wasn’t a complete fiasco but they didn’t turn out in droves to prove the market existed, either. It’s too bad; the album walks a very fine line between being commercial and being true to the band’s roots, and I think that it walks it very well. “The Wagon” and “Puke+Cry” are a solid one-two punch to open the record, and while the rest of the album lacks the squalling hardcore segments that characterized their SST work taking that out of the equation allows Mascis’ laid-back songwriting style to come through to the forefront. The next two albums would do much better, commercially, but it’s not like Green Mind was a complete flop. It did chart, after all, even if barely; beyond that, “Thumb” and “The Wagon” still get time in the band’s current setlists, even though Barlow has been back with the band for four albums. It’s the stoner album in the band’s catalog (although 2012’s I Bet On Sky comes close) and as such it’s worth taking a ramble through it’s fuzzy, affable meanderings.