Sting, Summers and Copeland may currently be getting all the headlines for reviving The Police, but if it’s a reunion of a seminal ’80s rock trio you’re after, then the original Dinosaur Jr line-up releasing a new album should definitely be enough to have you Walking On The Moon.
Of course Dinosaur Jr were releasing albums up until 1997, but by that point J Mascis had been going it alone for eight years and you sensed that his vocals’ legendary langour also contained an unhealthy dose of ennui.
But like Lennon and McCartney, Richards and Jagger, Plant and Page, the antithetical creatures that are Mascis and Lou Barlow somehow need each other in order to express themselves more fully, more articulately and more imaginatively. In fact, Beyond may just be the most consistently listenable Dinosaur Jr album since, well, ever. At the very least it’s the most versatile. Mascis’ ear-bleeding guitar soloing is ever prevalent, but there’s a dynamism in the music here that was missing in previous efforts.
Almost Ready is classic Dinosaur Jr for those who were attracted by the indie-meets-heavy-rock of Freak Scene; Pick Me Up is aggressive, bordering on the heavy metal; Been There All The Time is stop-start, punky and creatively satisfying; It’s Me’s tribal drum intro is a revelation; and I Got Lost a reflective piece with Mascis in falsetto mode and cellos in the background.
And in case you think Barlow’s role is relegated to Keeper of the Fuzzed-Up Bass, think again. He makes his presence felt in the form of the psychedelic Lightning Bulb and the absolutely superb Back To The Heart, whose thick guitars and vocal harmonies instantly recall Barlow’s day job band, Sebadoh, not to mention the dearly departed Elliott Smith.
If there’s a downside, it’s that Beyond sometimes sounds like it was recorded in a U-bend, with Murph’s drums the particular loser. But then Mascis used to get accused of having the percussion too high in the mix, particularly in the post-Barlow period. I guess there’s no pleasing some people but not to worry – with Beyond, Dinosaur Jr will keep more than enough of us happy.