Dinosaur Jr  -  Puke + Cry - The Sire Years 1990-1997 (Cherry Red)

Dinosaur Jr  –  Puke + Cry – The Sire Years 1990-1997 (Cherry Red)

I’m not usually one to do extremely belated reviews, but I received an email from one of our best PR folk (if you’re reading this and are PR yourself, then you are too) this morning asking me if I could send them my piece on Puke + Cry, the recently released boxset comprising all the band’s albums for Sire. “That’s weird,” I thought, “I did that, and had it published ages ago.” And then I searched for it, and it appears I hadn’t actually done it at all. I seem to be losing the plot. But anyway, that’s why you’re getting the review now.

Dinosaur Jr. are often somewhat overlooked in terms of influence. They shouldn’t be. You could pretty much pin the entire grunge movement on them, a sound which is more often attributed to Mudhoney as the kind of “godfathers” of that sound, and Neil Young too, though my personal view on that is that the Canadian genius’s foray into those waters only really started around 1990 with Ragged Glory, with the movement already in full swing.

Anyway, I digress. The first disc here is the out-and-out classic Green Mind, with J Mascis becoming something of a “Jack of all trades” instrumentally, the personnel not really extending much beyond the man himself. But what an album it was, opening with the euphoric thrill of ‘The Wagon’, undoubtedly one of the key singles in the band’s entire catalogue, and impressively, the standard never really drops thereafter, tracks like the Pixies drenched ‘I Live For That Look’ being swathed in defiant guitar squeals and emotionally wrought vocals from Mascis. The beguiling dancefloor charm of ‘Muck‘ is hard to resist and really the record is a joy from start to finish.

Where You Been, then, was clearly going to be a tricky follow-up, but astoundingly, manages to not only live up to its predecessor but actually better it! I was not expecting that at the time. It’s arguably not as commercial as Green Mind, the fierce rock of ‘Out There‘ setting the tone, a ferocious barrage of searing guitars and gruff, unforgiving vocals, before the far more accessible ‘Start Choppin‘ (a UK top 20 hit, no less!) arrests your aural senses and, defying all expectation, manages to stay ingrained in your brain long after your first listen. The blistering ‘On The Way‘ is a 300mph joyride that makes you feel like a character in Grand Theft Auto, and then we are completely and utterly usurped by the poignant, evocative – even ghostly – ambience of ‘Not The Same‘, later being met head-on with the full frontal assault of ‘Hide‘ before the glorious exultation of ‘I Ain’t Sayin‘.

Without A Sound is a decent, if not exactly groundbreakingly new, album. It’s imminently listenable, with curtain raiser ‘Feel The Pain’ emotionally affecting and exhilarating in equal measure, a feel continued through ‘Yeah, Right‘ and the truly lovely ‘Mind Glow‘. Hell, for ‘On The Brink‘, Mascis even went all “chart act” on us, but it’s kind of adorable anyway.

With Dinosaur Jr. being one of the most consistently reliable bands of the time, 1997’s Hand It Over was unfairly neglected on release and yet it contains some of the best work in their entire canon. You simply must check it out if you are unfamiliar with it. It’s indescribably beautiful, despite its often thunderously loud nature. The achingly gorgeous ‘Never Bought It‘ bucked the trend to an extent, though those trademark guitar squalls elevate the track to new levels and there are so many outstanding moments on here that hit you in the same way that My Bloody Valentine‘s Loveless did – it’s comparable in that it sometimes sounds baffling, but after a few plays it quickly becomes the ultimate nirvana. Which is an ironic twist, I guess! Nothing wrong with Cobain and co, of course, but give me Dinosaur Jr. any time.

Puke + Cry is merely a time capsule filled with nothing but sparkling gems. You probably won’t hear a better box set this year.

Puke + Cry is out now on Cherry Red.


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.