With expansive yet tight, overdriven riffs but subtle at times, Dinosaur Jr. has patented their explosive sound and have developed an epic alternative rock back catalog. With the release of their 11th proper studio album Give A Glimpse of What Yer Not last Friday (August 5), Glide thought it would be a good time to take a look back and rank the Amherst, MA trio’s past albums.
This is a difficult task because the band, and particularly the main creative force J Mascis, has developed such a solid songwriting/production style that they have consistently put out great albums over the last 30 plus years. Through label changes, band member shuffling/reunions and different musical decades the trio has been amazingly consistent with their brand of hard grooving, guitar driven rock and roll -no clunkers here.
Everyone can have their own opinion on their ranking, here is ours:
11. Dinosaur (1985)
Sometimes a band just puts it all together right from the beginning and you know they are destined for great things. Unfortunately, this was not the case with Dinosaur (soon to be legally changed to a Jr.) as their first album is clearly a work in progress. The band shows off its hardcore roots on “Repulsion” and some folk leaning but that melding of the two styles that they would become known for is a bit jarring from track to track. The best song is the first as “Forget The Swan” holds up to this day and is still a blast live. While these lists are clearly made to start conversation, few fans will argue that this record showed the talent, but the band would clearly improve as they continued.
10. Without a Sound (1994)
Kind of odd that the band’s biggest selling album is this low on the list, but it proves just how deep their catalog is. While “Feel The Pain” is still probably their best known song to an older MTV generation the rest of the album doesn’t deliver a ton of memorable tracks. Written around the same time as his father’s death, Mascis has mentioned this record was his toughest to write….
9. Hand It Over (1997)
From the band’s most popular to their least in terms of sales. It was an odd time in the late 90’s with rap rock and boy bands on the airwaves. Dino Jr (who at this point was almost all Mascis) spread their wings adding layers, new singing styles and a nuanced subtlety. A softer side of Dinosaur, but still loaded with guitar greatness; case and point the track “Alone”, simply amazing.
8. Give A Glimpse of What Yer Not (2016)
The most recent release from the band who have now put out more albums with the original lineup (J Mascis, Lou Barlow, Murph) post reunion then during their original formation. The newest release brings back a harder sound, with touches reminiscent of the band’s early Deep Wound days. Fantastically the purple punk power rolls on after 30+ years.
7. Farm (2009)
The second reunion album proved that the band was fully back and close to the peak of their talents. Releasing a killer single to kick things off with “Over It”, the band skates through a catchy rock number that cooks from the drop. The dense and expansive flight of “I Don’t Wanna Go There” and the Barlow penned crunch of “Imagination Blind” keep the vibe alive.
6. Bug (1988)
The last disk released before the dissolving of the band Bug finds the group on testy terse ground. The ripping “They Always Come” blaring of “The Post” the heavy swaying of ”No Bones” and the cathartic screaming of “Don’t” puts a raw button on the closing of the first chapter of the band. “Freakscene” may have started the dalbum on a positive tone but it is that melting screech that ends things, and for 19 years the original trio would stay apart.
5. I Bet On Sky (2012)
Having re-established the excellence of their reunion the band decided to put some subtle, brighter twists on their sound. For the first time pianos get a run in Dinosaur Jr tunes (“Don’t Pretend You Didn’t Know” and “Stick A Toe In”) and the band seems to be more relaxed overall. Sure “Watch The Corners” and “See It On Your Side” let the fretwork fly but the group seems confident, controlled and cruising, just check out the close to funky “Almost Fare”.
4. Beyond (2007)
One of the more unexpected comebacks in rock and roll found Lou Barlow and J Mascis setting aside differences to create a burner of an album: 2007’s Beyond. The album came out of nowhere and rocketed the group directly back into the spotlight with opener “Almost Ready” summing up the groups stoner rock style perfectly. “This Is All I Came To Do” is a blast of power while “Crumble” and “What If I Knew” keep the band fresh, yet reminded listeners just how damn good the original trio from Amherst was and would continue to prove to be.
3. Green Mind (1991)
After Barlow left the band longtime fans may have been worried what was next for the suddenly lacking trio. Worries were misplaced however as the next few years would find Mascis in fertile territory taking over and running away with his six string heroics. Playing almost all the instruments on Green Mind, Mascis gives us “The Wagon” to start and things take off from there. “Puke + Cry”, “How’d You Pin That One on Me” and “Water” are all stellar, but it is the pairing of closers “Thumb” and the title track that seal the deal on this disk. Oh yeah and the album cover art is one for the ages.
2. Where You Been (1993)
Continuing with that sense of freedom Mascis keeps the great tunes rolling on this alternative classic. Here the choruses just state the facts as J sings in his slacker style and solidifies the tracks. “What Else Is New” is a theme song for this band while “I Ain’t Sayin’” soars through the cosmos to close. The two blinding standout tracks are the dynamic “Get Me” and the instantly catchy riffs of “Start Choppin”. The whole disk is full of top notch tracks and would top this list if not for….
1. You’re Living All Over Me (1987)
While the truth is that there isn’t a bad album in this bunch, this one does stand out as an all-time classic that any fan of guitar based rock and roll should own. Experimental, driving, explosive, dynamic, quirky and flat out ass kicking the group’s second album has it all. From the screams of “Little Fury Things” to the Barlow penned acoustic freak out “Poledo” (or on reissues, the killer cover of “Just Like Heaven”) the tracks just keep on coming. “Kracked” screeches with power, “In A Jar” gets freaky with just a splash of pop while “The Lung” “Raisans” and “Tarpit” make for a strikeout combo that is wooly like a mammoth and electric like lightning. The behemoth “Sludgefeast” still sends shivers with its majestically huge guitars pounding drums and rumbling bass. For a band with so many great albums and songs this manages to stand out for all the things that Dinosaur Jr continue to do well 30+ years into their career.