In their first five years as a band, Dinosaur Jr. made three records that revolutionized underground guitar music and then promptly imploded. The original lineup of three scrappy Amherst punks had a nearly magical chemistry that always teetered on being derailed by simmering tension between controlling guitarist/vocalist/principal songwriter J Mascis and bassist Lou Barlow. In 1989, Mascis acrimoniously fired Barlow and pushed forward with his own vision for the band. Fourth album Green Mind would be not only the first Dinosaur Jr. record without Barlow's countermelodic bass lines and neurotic songwriting contributions, it would also be their first major-label effort. Released on Sire subsidiary Blanco y Negro in early 1991, Green Mind was more a Mascis solo album than the work of a proper band, with original Dinosaur drummer Murph only playing on three songs and Mascis handling almost all of the instruments. Even so, the overall sound of the album only changes negligibly from the SST classic Bug that preceded it by just 16 months. Buzzy album opener "The Wagon" (with assistance from Gumball's Don Flemming and Jay Spiegel) acts as a milder postlude to Bug's ragged "Freak Scene," and romps like "How'd You Pin That One on Me?" and "I Live for That Look" only slightly dial back the noisy punk din that could sometimes swallow entire songs on the first three albums.
Where the chaos and confusion of the band's early days were fueled by youthful anger and frustration, Green Mind found Mascis alone in a room arguing with himself. This becomes more apparent on the album's second half, where the tone mellows greatly on the melancholic and lamenting "Water," the stoned bumble of "Muck," and album highlight "Thumb," a blissed-out ballad heavy on Mellotron flute samples and Mascis' searching guitar soloing. The album ushered in the version of Dinosaur Jr. that would live out the rest of the '90s, with Mascis' lyrical language of slang and vaguities hemming him into a lonely stoner figure and the warm-but-distant tone of the songwriting exposing an enormous debt to Neil Young for the first time in the band's catalog. While he would work with other musicians more collaboratively on successive recordings, Mascis stayed at the center of every decision for the band's major-label run. Green Mind would be the most restless and insular of the four albums, born out of Mascis' band deteriorating under its own weight, leaving him to ramble and shred as his own devices saw fit. At the time of its release, many thought it lacked the power of the original trio, but it's a unique chapter in the band's discography, with some of the best-written songs Mascis would manage. Aptly named, Green Mind finds Mascis shrugging and mumbling as he walks listeners through a guided tour of his stoned, drifting thoughts.