In a case of being in the wrong place at the right time, alternative rock power trio Dinosaur Jr. had their best-selling, major label releases in the first half of the 90’s, which got them lumped in with the grunge bands of the Pacific Northwest like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Of course, they originated on the opposite coast in Massachusetts, had three indie albums in the 80’s, and two of the original players had quit the band by the time J Mascis made Green Mind, playing all the guitars and most of the drums himself. While Mascis’ appreciation for loud, distorted guitars, and a slacker vocal style that felt like a cross between Cobain and Vetter, gave Dino Jr. a sound in sync with the time, that label no doubt masked the classic rock melodic influences that fueled their strongest songs. It would be 2005 before the original three-piece would regroup.
Here on Sweep It Into Space, Mascis co-produces with Kurt Vile, who adds his own guitars to the mix, but these 12 new tracks resonate with the bold, guitar sound of classic Dinosaur Jr. with searing, soaring solos floating on a bed of distortion and the solid rock foundation of bassist Lou Barlow and drummer Emmett Murphy, who just goes by Murph. Barlow sings lead on a couple, “Garden,” a lighter sounding acoustic leaning song, and “You Wonder,” both have more of a 60’s folk rock feel. Elsewhere, Mascis leads the band through some harder rocking pieces, “To Be Waiting,” “I Met the Stones,” “I Expect It Always,” “N Say,” and “Walking To You,” which hint of Neil Young’s noisier experiments with Crazy Horse.
In the brighter, more acoustic feel of “I Ran Away,” and “And Me,” we hear Mascis’ more melodic side, while “Hide Another Round” has a catchy vocal hook inside his skittering electric guitar attack, and of course throughout the album we hear Mascis, and I suspect the occasional Vile, solo guitar scorcher. Dinosaur Jr. is a curious moniker for a band that refuses to let the classic guitar sounds of rock music go extinct.
Brian Q. Newcomb
For more of Brian Q. Newcomb’s music reviews, check out The Fire Note
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