DINOSAUR Jr – ” Where You Been ” Released 30 Years Ago Today

Posted: February 9, 2023 in MUSIC

Formed in 1984, Dinosaur Jr carved a singular path through the latter half of the 1980s and early 1990s, issuing a number of highly influential albums in the process before finding a home with Sire Records. ‘Where You Been’, their fifth record, emerged in 1993, at the height of enthusiasm for grunge and the alternative American rock scene the band had long been part of.

At this point in time, there is no questioning where J Mascis stands amongst his peers. His song writing has transcended generations and continues to evolve with each passing release. Everything he touches turns to gold, from the moment he started his shape-shifting band Dinosaur Jr. back in the mid-’80s, it was clear that he was more than your average frontman. J.Mascis oversaw the entire production and writing process for multiple LPs in the Dinosaur Jr catalogue, playing and recording almost entire albums as a one-man show. While Mascis is far from needing help to craft the blazing guitars and moody vocals that makeup Dinosaur Jr’s signature sound, some of his best work comes when a full band is backing his poetically bleak lyricism. Such is the case on the band’s fifth studio album, “Where You Been”, which was released on February 9th, 1993.

“Where You Been” marks one of the few albums released by the band via a major label that includes a full roster. Mascis was joined by longtime drummer of Dinosaur Jr, Murph, and a fresh face to the scene in the form of bassist Mike Johnson. With the full weight of the recording process lifted off Macis shoulders, he was able to truly hone in on his lyrical craft and vocal delivery while the rest of the trio rips through the wide range of tones delivered on this album. 

In just 10 tracks, Mascis and his band deliver one of the tightest and most well-rounded albums in their discography. This is very much a Dinosaur Jr album, seething guitar solos swooping in to knock the wind out of you right before the raspy sweetness of Mascis vocals carry you from one song to the next. Despite the undeniable style that is associated with the band still being present, “Where You Been” feels like a coming-of-age moment for the band. The playing from each member reached a level even higher than the bar they set on previous records, allowing these ideas to take their full form. Their chemistry shines the brightest during the bridges on these songs, these onslaughts of full instrumental pieces span from thrashing walls of sound to masterful bite-sized moments of pure rhythm. “On The Way” holds one of the more aggressive examples of chemistry on the tracklist, Dinosaur Jr gifts us with a bridge that would fit on a motorcycle gang’s playlist while a song like “Drawerings” features a more technically skilled moment with the blazing guitars and head-pounding drums creating a sort of harmony with each other. 

While the trio’s chemistry is a strong reason for the album’s success, with the song “Start Choppin’” marking the band’s highest charting single at the time, “Where You Been” is still very much a Mascis clinic. He toes the line of personal and relatable with his songwriting here, painting pictures that can be interrupted a variety of ways almost as if the pictures being painted are more on the abstract, minimalist side. Track 3 on the LP, “What Else Is New” is one of the best moments on the album and a highlight in the Mascis songbook in general. He’s stretching the possibilities of what his voice is capable of through a wavy melody as he delivers some of his most vague yet impactful lyrics. All over the album Mascis lays the foundation for us to build a narrative around his writing without creating a disconnect between his personal views and the music, forging these moments of clarity that still feel refreshing 30 years later. 

Mascis achieved something special with the lyrical content on “Where You Been”. He pieced together 50-minutes of scenic poetry that continues to provide solace to new fans the same way it did when people were hearing these songs for the first time in 1993. This style of songwriting breaks down generational gaps and time as we know it, creating a connective tissue that makes the world feel a lot smaller. The absence of directness in these lyrics gives these songs a sense of freedom, they were released into the wild with just enough disconnect from the author, making the listener an author in their own right as they build their own narratives around these 10-songs. 

30 years and a plethora of other releases from Dinosaur Jr, “Where You Been” still stands as one of their strongest. With the assistance of a full band, Mascis was able to explore new areas of his creativity and toy with his own blueprint in order to create a fresh sound without losing touch of his originality. In another 30 years, there will be another article written about Dinosaur Jr’s “Where You Been” as they created an album that is, in one word, timeless. 

 “Where You Been” is a great introduction to the music of Dinosaur Jr;

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