At the end of The Longest Meow, just after a contemplative, acoustic reading of Pixies' "Where Is My Mind," Bobby Bare Jr. delivers "Stop Crying," the last in a series of memorable original tracks. It begins as a swelling full-band ballad with lines like "just stop crying / you'll run out of tears and go blind" (which could have come from a single by Bare's Nashville-legend dad), and it ends with a raucous coda that could only happen on this side of Dinosaur Jr.'s career. On his fourth album, his second with his band Young Criminals Starvation League, Bare sounds pretty happy to live in the space between those two sounds.
Recorded (mostly) live in the studio, The Longest Meow showcases Bare's easy command of hard feelings. On "Borrow Your Cape," Bare takes aim at the political climate of "a moment when all common sense becomes unfashionable," as the band's pounding echoes his anger. But most of The Longest Meow stays planted in the personal, albeit a version of the personal peppered with images of guns and soldiers alongside the usual broken hearts. Mariachi horns and steel guitars liven up the jaunty bad times of "Back To Blue," doing nothing to reverse the sad fate of its characters.
If it weren't so irresistibly catchy, it might be tough to take, but Bare's gift for matching heartbreak with hooks is more in evidence here than ever. It's as tricky a balancing act as the one that lets him draw simultaneously on his Nashville legacy and on rock noise, but he's shown no signs of slipping up yet.