Dinosaur Jr. is one of those bands that seems to have been around forever and has released many, many albums. But by the same token, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that actually buys these albums or knows their songs outside of the college radio crowd.
Their 1993 release Where You Been might embody why. It’s got a good song, some OK songs and lots of forgettable ones. Kind of like listening to an afternoon of music on college radio.
Now, I remember the single for one of the songs “Out There” but aside from that, I’m hard pressed to remember anything of significance about them. I know they have a large fanbase though and since I’m hard-pressed to find February releases, I thought I’d see if there’s anything that makes an impression on Where You Been.
Well, aside from “Out There,” nothing on this album really caught my attention on the first, second or even third listens. So I went back and listened to the tracks one at a time to see if anything stood out there.
Luckily, a few did, but that doesn’t mean they were particularly memorable.
So who is Dinosaur Jr.?
Well, they’ve been around a long time, probably longer than half the people reading this. Dinosaur Jr. formed in Amherst, Massachusetts, in 1984. The recorded seven albums after that, until they disbanded in 1997. Then they reformed in 2005, recording four more albums since then.
On Where You Been, the band is a three piece. It features J Mascis on organ, guitar, piano, chimes, composer, drums, lead vocals, producer, timpani; Mike Johnson on bass, guitar, piano, backing vocals and guitar solo; and Murph on drums.
I guess Johnson and Murph do their parts OK, but then, it’s kind of hard to tell as there is not much in the ling of shining moments on this album.
Mascis, though, he stands out, but not in the good way. He sings in a half-whine half-yawn that is rather irritating. Most of the time, his faux strained vocals come off as irritating and you wonder who on earth would think that the band should center around them … then you realize it’s Mascis himself, who adds the self-important title of “composer” to the list of instruments on the album.
Yeah, so you know you’re in for something pretty pretentious and probably not as good as the “composer” thinks it is.
Where You Been isn’t exactly a terrible album, but it’s not a very good one either. It’s so boring that you’ll lose interest after the first track.
Where You Been doesn’t save the best for last, the middle or even the second song. It’s right at the beginning of the album. “Out there” is a really good song. It’s got memorable melodies and great atmosphere. It’s kind of like a Neil Young song as far as it sounds and it’s good enough to hit the “repeat” button a few times.
“On the Way” is a pretty good typical 90s rocker. It isn’t particularly original, sounding like something the much lower-quantity but higher-quality output of another major 90s band, Cracker.
“Not the Same” is another OK but not original sounding song. It’s got a great deep string melody sprinkled through the song, which gives it a nice vibe. There is almost no percussion to speak of, which adds to its effectiveness. Definitely recommend giving it a listen. But then again, it reminds me of a song by another artist, which just isn’t coming to mind right now.
“Hide” is another good track, that picks up what could be called a rather lethargic pace the album seems to fall into. Like other tracks, it’s pretty good, but not exactly original. You hear shades of Pearl Jam in it, which kind of makes you want to listen to Pearl Jam instead … that is if hadn’t heard them so many times on the radio that you can stand never hearing them again.
Things end with “I Ain’t Sayin” which actually starts with sort of an 80s guitar god melody, which I like. It’s an electro-acoustic number, which is again reminiscent of Cracker. Again, it’s a good song, in not exactly something you’d come back for repeated listens.
Now, those stand outs aren’t standing out because they’re particularly good, they’re just OK. But they are the only moments of note on this album.
Would I recommend this album?
Did you read the review?
I think this is the worst album I’ve listened to since began doing reviews last year.
Seriously, I would not only recommend skipping it if you saw it at the $1 bin at a strip mall music store, but I wouldn’t even recommend it for free on Youtube.
If college rock is your thing, though, I guess Where You Been is right up your alley. But then again, I can think of other albums that fit in Where You Been’s niche that are much, much better.