I have previously ranted on how Where You Been was the only Dinosaur Jr. album I would listen to for a very, very long time. Cliff notes of an already short piece, I would test drive the albums halfheartedly and then queue up Out There for the 503rd time.
I played the song that much for a reason. It is incredibly well balanced. Once you reconcile yourself to J. Mascis’ voice being as much of an instrument as any voice you have listened to, settle in for the beauty because it is right there for you.
Out There is the lead track. The video got some time on MTV, usually on 120 Minutes. We were so cool back then. The old folks had 60 minutes, we will got to 11, we will double down!
Out There allows J. to wail with guitar and voice. “Weren’t you invited?” does not color the page in print the way J. uses it, a plaintive cry from the alienated to the alienated. Clearly this is a song about something amiss, a disconnect throughout the song and an almost jarring addition of church bells deep in the song. They are masterfully laid in. The serenity that the bells represent right in behind the screeching guitar and J’s quasimoaning. It is one of my favorite Dinosaur Jr. songs, but don’t ask me for a hard ranking, unless you like tracking the movement of a list. Today the #1 song is Outta Hand.
Start Choppin was the hit from Where You Been. It hit #3 on the Modern Rock Tracks list in 1993 and charted #50 at its best on Billboard. I can just see J shrugging at that. Perhaps it is persona I have bought into, but gregarious is not a word I would use to describe J. Mascis. Start Choppin has a catchy opening guitar and J. is probably at his most approachable for a novice Dinosaur Jr. listener. He does hit the high notes, which is something I have grown to love in his voice.
His range is incredible. He can go from falsetto, like on Not the Same, calmly reporting on Goin’ Home or at his sharpest with a plaintive whine on Get Me. This album has it all and more and narrowly missed my top ten.