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‘Sweep It Into Space’ keeps Dinosaur Jr.’s streak of solid albums alive

By Brandon Carson Classic indie-rock band, Dinosaur Jr., has been on a roll since their reunion album, 2007’s Beyond. Before this incredible run of albums, their guitarist/bass player, Lou Barlow, had left the band in ‘89 after the release of their third album, Bug, and drummer, Patrick Murphy after  ‘93’s Where You Been. Guitarist and lead vocalist, J Mascis, kept going with the band for two more records. Beyond is a record that sets the tone for the next four to come. It’s a return to form, while still feeling fresh and unique to their discography. Farm continued this momentum and even pushed their own boundaries on melodies and production with songs like, “Plans” and “I Don’t Wanna Go There.” These two records helped move Dinosaur Jr. forward and show growth as a band. Later, the band saw the release of “I Bet On Sky,” which benefitted the punk side of their sound. It’s another solid addition to their discography, while not being the best. Give A Glimpse of What Yer Not, released in 2016, kept the streak of strong albums alive. It had plenty of catchy hooks in songs like “Tiny,” and even experimented their sound a bit with “Knocked Around.” Sweep It Into Space carries the same torch as all the post-reunion albums. Co-produced by Kurt Vile, each song has emotional, gripping instrumentals, and their sound has adapted all while staying true to them. A few forgettable tracks don’t spoil the bunch, but still affect the album’s quality overall.

More great songs, same old Dinosaur Jr.

“I Ain’t” starts the record off with a driving riff and drum beat and introspective lyrics from Mascis. It’s followed by “I Met The Stones,” a fairly straightforward track that constantly gets better as time goes by. The first stand-out on the album is “To Be Waiting.” The production feels like a mix between the 80s and modern Dinosaur Jr., as well as the structure, pushing together all the great Dinosaur Jr. clichés into one song: a moody chorus where Mascis sings one line, an emotional solo that helps the listener feel the mood of the song, and reverbed drums that fill the space perfectly. The solos on this track are transcendent and all over the album (and their discography), Mascis pushes and experiments with his guitar playing style. The solos seem to always come in at just the right time for each song. “I Ran Away,” sounds like a happy, carefree song, but the lyrics say otherwise. The multiple layers of guitars take the song to great heights, and once again, Mascis’ emotional guitar solos will always improve the quality of these songs. Barlow’s first song for the record is “Garden,” a slow, Pixies-eqsue jam with a big wall of sound for a chorus. It changes the pace of the album for the better. One of the constants for the reunion albums is Barlow singing and writing a couple of songs, and it always adds more dynamics to each one. “Hide Another Round,” threw me for a loop. The beginning seemed to foreshadow a forgettable track, with nothing interesting, maybe even filler. But after the first chorus, everything comes together, and deserves a spot on Sweep It Into Space. “And Me,” is another prominent track, that takes Dinosaur Jr.’s 90s era sound (Green Mind, Where You Been) and mixes it into a cleaner production, changing the album’s flow.

Expanding their sound, while keeping it the same

One thing that AC/DC seems to have lost, is the ability to keep their sound while trying new things with it. Dinosaur Jr. is a similar band, in that, if one heard a couple of their songs, they’d soon understand what the band sounds like. But what Dinosaur Jr. does that AC/DC doesn’t, can be found in the back half of the album, with songs like, “Take It Back,” and “You Wonder.”  “Take It Back” brings a piano into the mix and plays with song structure. The bridge for the track is surprising and grand, with big soundscapes. It really helps the back half of the album and makes the flow of the record more interesting as a whole. Another unique song comes from “You Wonder,” the closer of the record and another Barlow track. The melodies change constantly but still work together, Mascis plays one of his most different-sounding solos on the whole album, and the lyrics feel dense with multiple meanings to be deciphered.
“Go, mystery, go/Let me shine a light/The dark corner of our yesterday/Let mе get it right/Before wе met I thought I'd lose my mind hiding/All the time you wonder how I feel”

A few forgettable cuts

The only problem that ensues across this record is a few bland songs. This isn’t to say that they don’t sound like Dinosaur Jr., or that they are terrible. But when a record is full of great songs that push their discography forward, it is easy to hear when a song doesn’t reach that level. “I Expect It Always” meanders about and feels boringly familiar. “N Say” has a good guitar solo, but the song itself is disinteresting and doesn’t go anywhere new. “Walking to You” has stand-out lyrics, but the mix overall is off-putting and too muddy, surprisingly. The album overall isn’t better than say, the all killer, no filler, You’re Living All Over Me, or even the catchy and instrumentally strong, Farm, not that it needs to be. But when compared to those classic Dinosaur Jr. albums where every song on it is great, “I Expect It Always,” and “N Say” drag down that chance of the record being on that level.

Top tracks:

And Me You Wonder Take It Back

Recommended if you like: 

Pixies Pavement Built to Spill
Sources: The Toronto Star, All Music, Genius, Genius, Genius Featured Image: Genius