When J. Mascis released More Light (with The Fog) back in 2000, I went to one of my favorite local record stores to pick it up. The owner of the store (who started it with, literally, a crate of records back in 1982) noticed me as a regular and offered to assist me in his quest to capture as much cash out of my wallet as he could. When I asked him if he had the new J. Mascis record, he sheepishly admitted that he didn’t, sadly hinting at my out-of-touchness by saying “We don’t have that much demand for Dinosaur Jr. anymore.”
So not only did I feel downright old, it troubled me that the youth of America seemed to have abandoned one of the forefathers of ear-damaging guitar rock. Sure enough: the store’s used bin was littered with the various titles of Dinosaur Jr.’s spotty 90s output, the same ones that I can admit to owning while also admitting that I understood how J. slowly fell from his Marshall stack throne.
I’m fairly certain that the reason for this is because the band’s other creative force, Lou Barlow, wasn’t present when the band jumped from SST to the majors, deciding to lend his talents towards his own Sebadoh and Folk Implosion projects. Admittedly, Barlow typically only contributed a lone title to each one of those early Dino efforts, but it seemed that (in retrospect) J. at least had someone in rehearsals to impress upon when weeding out an album’s song list.
I won’t get into the dynamics of J. and Lou’s relationship here, but it took me by surprise when I learned the two were burying the hatchet a few years ago when they decided to reunite to support the re-release of the first three albums in the Dino Jr. catalog. “At least they’re playing together again.” I thought, with no hopes that they might actually get along enough to make new music.
Beyond, the first record of the original Dinosaur Jr. line-up in nineteen years, not only shows them making new music, it shows them making great new music. Within seconds, you can hear the band picking up exactly at the same point where Bug left off.
It is, dear friends, a heavenly racket.
Mascis mewls with a newfound purpose, and while his slacker stance may remain in tact, his pen has got some new ink. Even the song titles reflect some sort of rejuvenation: “I Got Lost,” “Almost Ready,” “Pick Me Up,” “Been There All The Time,” it’s as if Mascis is lyrically acknowledging that he’s been treading water for well over a decade, only to find an inspiration in a long lost bassist.
Barlow seems to be feeling a little sentimental too. Consider his last vocal performance with the band (“Don’t” from Bug) where he screamed “Why don’t you like me!” over and over, an almost unhidden reflection of the problems that he and Mascis were having with each other at the time. He finally acquiesces his relationship with J. on Beyond during the song “Lightning Bulb” (“You know what they would say… Can’t we all get along?”) who, in turn, allows him to contribute two songs on the new album.
The most recognizable element of Dinosaur Jr. has always been Mascis’ Jazzmaster torture, which rightfully remains as the absolute selling point throughout Beyond. His solos are loaded with emotion and technical precision (the solo on “We’re Not Alone” nearly brought me to tears) and almost every other one could promote a collective “Fuckin’ A” among fans of guitar shredding.
To simply call Beyond an excellent reunion album doesn’t do it enough justice: Beyond is… in fact “beyond” that kind of description. Not only does it rank alongside the band’s SST necessities (hell, even the album art looks straight out of that label’s heyday portfolio) it ranks as, quite possibly, the year’s best rock record.
And I’m willing to bet that it’s good enough for that old record store to stock it due to some rejuvenated demand for Dinosaur Jr.
Dinosaur Jr. – Been There All The Time