April 8, 2007

Review: Dinosaur Jr. | Beyond [MP3]

Dinosaur Jr. -- BeyondIf the title to this album were posed as a question, the plausible answers would be many: youthful egos; destructive personal conflict; pretention; expectations. The rejuvenated version of Dinosaur Jr., featuring its legendary original line-up from the 1980s, has been making news for a couple years -- now it is finally making records. Recorded primarily at guitarist and singer J Mascis's home studio in Amherst, Mass., Beyond is a powerful, raw set of tunes. Album opener "Almost Ready" offers a good proxy for a statement of purpose: a succinct, straight-ahead rocker that rides three swiftly cycled chords -- the song has no true B section, just a blink-and-you'll-miss-it bridge before the two-minute mark -- and a few blazing guitar solos for fewer than 200 seconds.

While Mascis found major label success in the '90s under the Dinosaur Jr. brand without founding bassist Lou Barlow, and he has a few solo sets under his belt this decade (one of them, More Light, being phenomenal), Beyond feels like a breath of fresh air. It sounds like a fan's fantasy, give or take the odd mystical and country gothic references that characterized the band's 1985 debut. Folks here and there have speculated about Mascis' resurgence being tied to his hiring new proactive management earlier this decade, but the energy on this record doesn't sound like anything that could have been spurred by something as mundane as business interests. Beyond is electrifying. Even Mascis' soloing sounds reinvigorated, especially on "We're Not Alone." At about two-and-a-half minutes into the tune the riffs begin to ecstatically, kaleidoscopically cascade from Mascis' hands. Jack Black's character in "School Of Rock" would deem it a "face melter." It is a highlight of a record long on great songs and short on anything that could be called filler. Beyond, indeed.

A note to folks out there who have been listening to the leaked version of the record: you haven't been listening to the final mixes (just as one frustrated commenter noted here in our item from two months ago). The songs on our official promo version of the record have numerous additional guitar licks and the sound is cleaner and more spatially separated, and the more we listen the more new things we hear. There's clearer percussion, more distinct bass and stormier guitars. Beyond will be released by Fat Possum May 1; you can pre-order the set here. In the meantime, if you haven't already been spinning it non-stop, here is the official promo MP3 from the record. The band hits the road May 10 for a good long tour of North America, and you can view all the tour dates at the band's MySpace shack here. Enjoy.

Dinosaur Jr. -- "Almost Ready" -- Beyond
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