Wednesday, May 2, 2007

First Blush: Dinosaur Jr. - Beyond

I envisioned these First Blushes as something that would come along once every two months or so. Little did I know that so many of my favorite established artists would be releasing new material this spring. This marks the eighth album to be reviewed here in this manner. Color me surprised. It’s also the last one for a while (unless there’s some upcoming album I’m unaware of). So if you feel like this place has been heavy on the blush (they call it rouge in France, you know), no need to complain - at least until the Interpol album comes out on July 10.

Dinosaur Jr. had been around from the mid 80s through the late 90s, but “being around” meant different things at different times. They began as a trio with J Mascis on guitar and lead vocals, Lou Barlow on bass and sometimes vocals, and Murph on drums. With thunderously crunchy guitar licks and mournful vocals, the band developed a wide and devoted cult following. By the late 80s, Barlow and Masics were not coexisting well, resulting in Mascis “breaking up” the band in 1989. At least that’s what he told Barlow. The next day, the band “re-formed” without its original bassist. Barlow went on to form Sebadoh and Folk Implosion, while Mascis recorded the majority of bass parts from that point on. Dino continued to gain in popularity, peaking in 1993 with their album, Where You Been. Mascis kicked Murph out before the next release, choosing to record the albums all by his lonesome. By 2000, J started a new project, leaving the moniker Dinosaur Jr. behind him. However, in 2005, the original lineup reunited, played some shows, and decided that they got along OK after all. A spot at Lollapalooza was given, and a national tour followed, with the majority of songs being played coming from those initial, original lineup days. Beyond is the first release with that lineup since 1988’s Bug. Let’s see how they did!

Track 1 – Almost Ready
0:01 – Things kick off with a hot guitar solo and fuzziness from all the instruments – even the snare drums!
0:38 – “Come ooon, life. I’m almost ready…” I could be hearing that wrong, but that’s what I heard. What a catchy chorus. And this is a classic Dino track. Stringy-haired gentleman across this land are bobbing their heads back and forth as we speak.
1:39 – First really dirty solo from J (first of many we hope!).
1:58 – “Find the truth, I’m way off track again.”
2:27 – OK, even if the rest of the album turns out to be garbage, they quite a tune here. Hummable, singable, headbangable if you wanted. A perfect first track.

Track 2- Crumble
0:02 – The intro reminds me somewhat of "The Lung" from You’re Living All Over me (but that’s grossly misleading as this song is much mellower and sweeter – I just didn’t know that two seconds in, but I do now at 17 seconds in – sue me).
1:05 – I love and hate these short titles J always gives his songs. They definitely fit the tunes and the band, but it makes them so darn hard to remember. And they’re almost never taken from the chorus.
1:39 – Super-rich guitar chords here.
3:11 – Why do I feel like we’re four or five songs in already? Each of these first two songs have a lot of different segments. The sound is excellent thus far. Very rich and buzzy.

Track 3 – Pick Me Up
0:23 – The riff here is almost a mid-90s glam rock thing (an era that should never have been). I can’t really explain it. I’m sure it’ll change in a second.
0:37 – Yeah, very J Mascis + the Fog right now.
1:25 – “Am I wrooooooong? All alooooong….”
2:04 – If anyone can get his guitar to sound just like a Theremin, it’s J Mascis.
2:47 – Break it down now, half-speed.
3:37 – An extended, lyrical solo from J.
4:56 – Solo still going. I miss the guitar as a lead instrument, don’t you?
5:58 – I think we get some strings in the background here, but who can be bothered by them? J is wailing…

Track 4 – Back to Your Heart
0:15 – First track with Barlow singing. There is something very charming in his delivery. His voice is smooth, but with a hint of urgency.
1:39 – The chorus is very bluesy – almost stompy with Barlow crooning the song’s title.
3:02 – “Think about the future, let the past unwind,” which I guess kind of explains how we got to this point.

Track 5 – This is All I Came to Do
0:02 – Punchy opening to this one.
1:04 – OK, the title on this’n’ll be easier to remember as the chorus is “This is all I came to do…” repeated four times.
2:03 – I kind of feel like the boys mailed this one in. It’s clearly a Dinosaur Jr. song, but there’s not much to say about it beyond that. They’ve got several songs akin to this one that are better. Even the words in the chorus are vanilla.
4:20 – Nothing new to report. Just giving a shout out for the stoners.

Track 6 – Been There All the Time
0:14 – Now we’re rawkin’ a bit more. Murph is in control here.
1:15 – “Is it ooooon me?” is repeated. A quicker pace – this sounds like classic Dino. Did I use that line already? Whatever.
2:19 - Tons of guitars going every which way all at once.
3:30 – Damn is J punishing that guitar!

Track 7 – It’s Me
0:09- Verrry Thunderkiss ’65! (chun-chun-chugga-cha-chun-chun-chugga)
1:57 – Definitely the heaviest track thus far – at least from the guitars. Murph isn’t really pounding, but is quite active.
3:27 – “I know why – I know why, if I can fight will you believe?” I’m not sure how that goes together, but it’s a positive lyric to be sure.
4:27 – My receipt says “CD/DVD” for this purchase. Should I be excited? Or is Best Buy just kinda dumb?

Track 8 – We’re Not Alone
0:05 – Light and sweet guitars get the last third of the album going.
1:04 – So this is the one for the ladies – or something. The plaintive male: “I wanted you to say… be around.”
1:57 – A held chord fades out, and the whole song shifts a bit – a little peppier and more positive.
2:32 – Man did J live in the wrong era. He’s shredding on a sweet little love song and it fits perfectly. If this was 1988, people would have worshiped him. What? Dino was around in ’88? Oh yeah. Maybe they should have done a video with strippers or something.

Track 9 – I Got Lost
0:26 – All acoustic guitars.
0:37 – Toms fill in the gaps a bit.
1:08 – There’s falsetto J. I wasn’t sure if he was still into that. It’s a very sparse song for him to be climbing that high, but it’s working for me right now.
2:51 – I can’t really understand J when he’s singing this high. We do have a cello involved now (kind of snuck up on me). But the song is not going through many other changes.

Track 10 – Lightning Bulb
0:08 – Lou singing again.
0:22 – “Truth is no one knows, how the garden grows.” I missed the line that followed this, but that’s kind of blah, no?
0:50 – The bass is throbbing right now. It’s almost funky, but too heavy to be so.
2:33 – It’s so different from something J would write. I like this song, though (reminds me of Flame by Sebadoh – nowhere near as great as that song, but there’s some connection there).

Track 11 – What if I Knew
0:13 – Start of this one indicates a calm finish to the album
0:48 – Super buzzy
0:54 – Edgy guitar solo – it’s sharp like a blade, hanging out over the top of everything
3:15 – This song is just a vehicle for another impressive solo. And that’s how it’s going to wind up.

They found the right place – right in between their old, old stuff and the most recent releases by J Mascis + the Fog. I would have liked something a bit more epic along the lines of Get Me or Alone, but maybe I’ll discover that kind of thing buried in here on subsequent listens. The album is getting great reviews and I can see why. If you’re at all interested, I recommend going out and picking it up (cheapest price I found was Circuit City for 12.99). Oh, and you should also pick up You’re Living All Over Me as well as Where You Been, you slacker!

1 comment:

Kimmy said...

Interesting to know.