Dinosaur Jr.: Beyond

B-

Dinosaur Jr.

Album: Beyond
Label: Fat Possum

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In light of Lou Barlow's Sebadoh success, it's easy to overestimate his contributions to Dinosaur Jr., but at least part of the tension between Barlow and singer-guitarist J Mascis stemmed from the fact that Dino was never a democracy: Barlow contributed exactly two songs to the first three albums, and neither of those were particularly representative of what he'd do later. More proof that Barlow's influence was negligible: Mascis made some amazing music after unceremoniously dumping him. (Mascis told Barlow the band was done, then "re-formed" it without him.) Green Mind, the first post-Barlow album, lacked some of Dinosaur's early grit, but it holds up as one of the band's strongest. And Mascis' biggest commercial successes came via albums that he wrote (and sometimes performed) by himself.

But Mascis had lost momentum (and a good chunk of his fan base) by the time he put the Dinosaur name to rest in 1997. Reunion fever—buoyed, no doubt, by the success of the Pixies' return—struck in 2005; Barlow set aside his animosity and agreed to tour. (His own spurned bandmate, Eric Gaffney, later did the same with Sebadoh.) Both on tour and on its first album together in nearly 20 years, the original Dinosaur Jr. lineup sounds, for better and worse, like the band's members had never been apart. Beyond could've come out in 1990, or 2000, or 2010, and it'd sound exactly like a Dinosaur Jr. record, with zero surprises—just plenty of Mascis' inimitable, lethargic voice and monstrously assured guitar-slanging backed by a thumping, solid rhythm section.

Mascis hasn't written an unforgettable chorus since 1994's "Feel The Pain," and that doesn't change on Beyond. He's still capable of wringing far more passion from his fingers than from his words, which means that barnburners like "Almost Ready" and "Pick Me Up" feel great going in one ear and rattling around, but they head right out the other. There isn't a bad song on Beyond—though both of Barlow's contributions slow things down a bit—but it never reaches the transcendent, wailing energy of Mascis' best.

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