By Joel Francis
Subtlety has never been a Dinosaur Jr trademark, but since the original lineup regrouped nearly two years ago, they have quietly been establishing the template for how a reunion should go.
With “Beyond,” the first album with the original lineup of J Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph since 1988, Dinosaur Jr have not only conquered the studio phobia plaguing most reunited bands, but have also made one of the best albums of their career.
Sonically, “Beyond” fits snugly between “Bug” and “You’re Living All Over Me” and feels like the natural resumption of a conversation that should never have ended. Mascis has been fine regardless of the musicians he’s surrounded himself with; however, “Beyond” hammers home the fact that Barlow and Murph bring out the best in their leader and each other.
Mascis’ wailing guitars and mourning vocals on “Almost Ready” open the album like a long-lost relative kicking in the door for a surprise visit. But “Beyond” is far more than a nostalgia trip, even if it is impossible to not float back to the early ‘90s while listening.
All three members seem ready to make nice. Pleas for reconciliation and understanding fill half of Mascis’ songs, including darn near an apology in “What If I Knew,” the closing track.
Barlow’s “Back To Your Heart” has a jangle and buoyancy missing from the rest of the album while his “Lightning Bulb” follows Mascis’ acoustic ballad “I Got Lost,” which may be the most beautiful song the band has done.
A good band getting back together is always interesting – even more so when it improves their legacy. If the Pixies, the Police or any other reunion act have the courage to venture back into the studio, they’ll have “Beyond” to measure up to. We’ll be lucky if any do half as well.