Dinosaur Jr. Green Mind / Where You Been

Sometimes a burning nostalgia is enough to justify a re-evaluation of once-loved records, which is very much the case for the latest batch of Dinosaur Jr. reissues. Following up Merge’s 2005 reissues of the band’s first three albums, Rhino has gone back into the vault to get these two ’90s alt-rock staples heard again in the midst of an apparent J Mascis comeback. With its iconic album cover (in college circles, that is), Green Mind was the band’s major label debut, which at the time consisted solely of Mascis, who recorded it on his own with some friends. Cleaning up the sludgy wah-driven noise from his proto-grunge SST recordings, Green Mind is considerably melodic to boot, finding Mascis embracing a real rock edge and crafting a sound that would earn his band an important role in the Lollapalooza generation. "The Wagon” is one of the era’s finest moments with Don Fleming joining in for a one-off jangular noise feast, while Mascis puts his heart on display on the peculiar by rather lovely acoustic ballad "Playing Cloud.” The album shows that no matter how much noise Dino Jr. made in the underground, up above in the mainstream was where their music belonged. Where You Been further extends this notion, beginning with Mascis’s most defined guitar riff (that of "Out There”), which sets the tone for this slower, slightly superior grunge-era classic. "Start Choppin” was their closest thing to a mainstream hit at the time, using cherished guitar chops and buoyant "goodbye” vocal hook. "Get Me” proves another high point for Mascis, turning a semi-ballad into a lethargic riff romp that buries itself in your humming play list. "What Else Is New,” meanwhile, finds Dino Jr. branching out and hiring some unorthodox but fitting strings for its exit, while "Not the Same” gives Mascis his spotlight to attempt his best Neil Young vocal performance. Like all good reissues, some bonuses are tacked on to both to make this a more worthwhile investment. Green Mind offers some b-sides that sound as though they’re from the album’s sessions: a Flying Burrito Brothers cover, "Hot Burrito #2,” is quite good, as are other former b-sides "Turnip Farm” and "Forget It” — in fact they could have even been thrown into the album’s mix to make things a little more interesting. Where You Been on the other hand pulls the opposite, digging up some futile live sessions that do nothing but add an unnecessary addendum to a fine album. What with reuniting the band for a trip down memory lane last year, and popping up at various festivals this year, Mascis seems to crave recognition again. These two releases are cornerstones of the early ’90s grunge boom and essential to the long-haired guitar wizard’s catalogue, but unless you’re jonesin’ for reliving that period again, it’s fair to say in today’s world they’re not much else. (Rhino)