Review Summary: The full lineup of Dinosaur Jr. is back after a full childhood's hiatus with no signs of age or tiredness.
Dinosaur Jr.? More like Dinosaur Sr. Joe Mascis is 41 years old and Lou Barlow is 40. Ok, so they’re not the age of the Rolling Stones, but to make a comeback album together at this age, their first album together in 18 years, is simply monumental. Responsible for pioneering lo-fi indie rock and returning the role of lead guitar to these bands, Dinosaur Jr. may have returned simply to do what they already did all over again. After all, indie rock today is worlds away from where Dinosaur Jr. had their heyday. Today, indie rock sounds just as good as mainstream rock and hardly ever uses guitar solos or even distortion. With all the advanced recording equipment Dinosaur Jr. could surely get their hands on, Beyond should sound completely different from their albums in the 80s.
begs to differ. Immediately, an ambiguous, distorted lead guitar enters and the song crashes into a loud blend of distortion and nothing has changed. Remarkably, Dinosaur Jr. create a completely authentic 80s lo-fi sound. Mascis’ guitar soloing, melodic yet still virtuosic, stands out and creates more melody than his singing. The vocals create stark contrast to the guitar, oft cracking and struggling to cough the words out, let alone the melody. Almost Ready
, the lead single, presents a thriving Dinosaur Jr. who seem just as young as they always were, no matter how grey their hair might be. The album progresses and the band never loses its loud, relentless intensity. Pick Me Up
is almost an epic, over 6 minutes long. Instead of the sloppiness from Almost Ready
, Pick Me Up
presents a tighter, more cohesive sound. The song begins energetically and uptempo, but it enters a half time section in the middle that presents an entirely different side of the band. Drummer Emmett Murphy sets everything up with a simple groove, one of the only parts on the album where he really stands out. From there, Mascis takes a brilliant 3-minute guitar solo that climaxes with screaming high notes and the entire band slowing down to one final chord that tapers off into feedback.
Mascis is the primary songwriter on Beyond, writing all but two songs on Beyond. Barlow picks up the slack with his two compositions, Back to Your Heart
and Lightning Bulb
. Barlow’s compositions are more of a band effort where Mascis dominates his songs. It even shows in the production of the songs. For most of the album, Barlow is almost inaudible, but in his compositions, the bass almost overplays the guitar. Overall, Barlow’s compositions are simpler but more enjoyable because they present an entire band with catchy pop hooks and tuneful melodies. Mascis writes a few songs with more able and melodies and a clearer sound, such as We’re Not Alone
. Instead of the same old distorted mess, Mascis plays clean guitar chords. When he solos, he leaves his guitar groove playing underneath him as he does on the entire album, but the clean guitar chords mixed with his distorted soloing makes everything easier to distinguish. We’re Not Alone
finds the band playing much more emotionally than usual. It then segues into I Got Lost
, an acoustic ballad laced with tribal percussion and synth cello. Mascis sings in a high falsetto voice in an attempt to create better melody, but it does not suit the song well. The band’s attempt at an acoustic ballad almost works, but it definitely does not stand out on the album for anything more than variety.
Beyond’s main flaws come in a lack of variety. Joe Mascis dominates the album with his guitar soloing, playing so loud that he sometimes even covers up the drums. Either he is singing or soloing; he hardly leaves time for any band instrumental statements. Luckily, his soloing is brilliant and even his weak vocals have a bright side. They are unique and never dominate the band, allowing the riffs to have a moment to shine. Overall, Beyond is remarkable considering the band members have not played together for 18 years. It takes the listener back to the 80s with an effortless style of production, and that alone makes the album nostalgically enjoyable.
Pick Me Up
We’re Not Alone