Dinosaur Jr. reunites to release a new album

  • Dinosaur Jr.'s new album cover. Contributed photo

  • Dinosaur Jr. Contributed photo

For the Recorder
Published: 4/29/2021 9:49:59 AM

Local alt-rock band Dinosaur Jr. is back with a new album, “Sweep It Into Space” — sounding better than ever.

When the classic lineup of J Mascis on vocals/guitar, Lou Barlow on bass/vocals and Murph on drums reunited in 2005, fans were thrilled but not all that hopeful. Tensions between Mascis and Barlow, which led to Barlow being ousted from the band in 1989 (Murph split in 1993), have been well documented, so it was easy to understand why many thought this reunion would be short- =lived. But Dinosaur Jr. proved the naysayers wrong, the group has now been together longer than their first time around and they have created some of the best music of their career. “Sweep It Into Space,” is a testament to the band’s undeniable chemistry and it’s a work that rivals some of their output from the late 1980s.

On “Sweep It Into Space,” the band does what they do best — create loud and heavy melodic rock that is dominated by Mascis’ soaring solos, which are anchored by Murph’s propulsive drumming and Barlow’s strong baselines. The record opens with “I Ain’t,” and it’s only mere seconds into the song when Mascis’ fiery fuzzed-out guitar kicks in as he sings in his trademark laid-back voice about not wanting to be alone: “I can’t take it/Can’t quite place it /I won’t make it alone/I won’t break it/No mistake/I just can’t go it alone.”

While this sounds like a lyrical line that might have been written during the pandemic, chances are they weren’t because much of this album was completed in late 2019 with recording taking place at Mascis’ Amherst-based studio. Besides, Mascis has been writing lyrics like these throughout his career.

While this song doesn’t include one of his wailing going off into the stratosphere guitar solos, there are plenty of them here on songs like “I Expect it Always” and “I Met The Stones.”

While not much has changed about Mascis’ overall heavy guitar sound, one thing that can be said about “Sweep It Into Space” is that it’s extremely melodic. Perhaps this comes from the influence of Kurt Vile, who toured with the band in 2019 (the tour stopped at Look Park) and co-produced the album with Mascis. He plays a 12-string guitar on “I Ran Away,” which may be one of the poppiest songs that the band has ever done. “Take it Back,” on which Mascis plays Mellotron, also has an incredibly catchy chorus.

As with past Dinosaur Jr. projects, Barlow, who resides in Greenfield, contributes a couple of tracks here — “You Wonder” and “Garden” and they are both winners. “Garden” is a gorgeous emotional song that finds Barlow singing, “Don’t make it harder/ Hand me your hand, no time to wait/ Where is the garden?/ And when do we move?/ Love how you move with me.”

To remain as creatively vital as this trio has for as long as they have is something that few bands manage to accomplish. With “Sweep It Into Space,” they have created an album that doesn’t have a bad track on it.

It will be great to hear these songs live when they are played at ear-bleeding volume and we are going to get the chance. Dinosaur Jr. is playing a live stream to celebrate the release of “Sweep It Into Space” on Saturday, May 1 at 9 p.m. The show will be broadcast from The Sinclair in Cambridge, and the stream will be available for replay for a limited time following the performance. Tickets with an option for a VIP soundcheck experience and exclusive merchandise are available for purchase at bit.ly/3fw2ggH. The band will play a live socially distanced drive-in concert at Northlands (formerly Drive-In Live) in Swanzey, New Hampshire on May 22. The band will launch a full-fledged tour later in the year that will be at the Academy of Music in Northampton on Nov. 26. Tickets for these shows are on sale now. More information can be found at aomtheatre.com.

In other Dinosaur Jr. news, Lou Barlow will release a solo album, “Reason to Live” on May 28.

“Poets” by Liz Simmons

If you are looking for something that is the complete opposite of Dinosaur Jr., Liz Simmons, the guitarist/vocalist of the Brattleboro-based folk/roots band Low Lily has a new solo album out called “Poets.” Her second solo album, “Poets” is a mix of originals and covers and is a quiet work of contemplative beauty accentuated by Simmons’ lovely, clear voice.

The disc opens with “When the Waters Rise,” which touches on themes of home and getting through difficult times. “Home is more than four walls and a door/It’s the place you always long for.” The song includes Corey DiMario on double bass, he is one of the many guest musicians from the folk /roots world who helps out on this disc. Dobro phenom Andy Hall (The Infamous Stringbusters), pedal steel legend Pete Grant (the Grateful Dead) and guitarist Flynn Cohen, Simmons ‘husband and band-mate from Low Lily, are a few of the musicians who make appearances here.

Simmons’ voice is a stunning instrument and this is most apparent on the title track on which she is accompanied by piano. She chose to name the album after this song because as she has said, “Each song tells a story through its lyrics, but also through its musical arc, its history and my connection to it.”

Another highlight is “Adventurer,” which benefits from the addition of Natalie Haas’ smooth cello. Simmons chooses to include some interesting covers including, Dirk Powell’s “My Love Lies in the Ground,” which is a creepy song in which the narrator wants to dig up his dead beloved to kiss her once again. She also takes on Sandy Denny’s “Who Knows Where the Time Goes,” and Joni Mitchell’s “Night in the City” and does justice to both songs. But the best cover here is her take on the old Motown song, “This Old Heart of Mine.” Wes Corbett’s banjo and the double bass of Corey DiMario turn it into a fun, rootsy jam, making it the most upbeat song here.

“Poets” closes as it opened, with the theme of water. “Home From the Storm” is another piano-based song that features some electric guitar. A sad tune about a woman keeping watch over the sea as she worries, “please come home from the storm/safe here in my arms.” This song, like some of the others on “Poets,” are rather dark, but the combination of Simmons’ lovely voice and the gentle music that she wraps her words in makes “Poets” a soothing and comforting listen.

Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines. You can contact her at soundslocal@yahoo.com.


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