- LP - Purple Ripple Vinyl
Throughout the years, Dinosaur Jr. have remained one of the most distinctive bands to ever emerge from the American underground. Twelfth studio album Sweep It Into Space is the group’s fifth set of new material since the original lineup re-formed in 2005, and it sees them further refining the brand of guitar-driven slacker pop that only they can create. Besides guitarist/vocalist J Mascis, bassist/vocalist Lou Barlow, and drummer Murph, the only other contributor to Sweep It Into Space is noted Dinosaur Jr. descendant Kurt Vile. Vile assists with production input and the occasional auxiliary instrumental part, showing up mostly as understated touches like the subtle 12-string guitar figures he offers as counterpoint to Mascis’ Thin Lizzy-esque dual leads on the jangly “I Ran Away.” Vile’s presence is barely perceptible, however, as the album is solidly centered around the airtight chemistry, guitar mastery, and mumbling brilliance that has defined the band since the late ’80s. “I Ain’t” opens the album with a flowing, stony melody and walls of layered guitars. This and songs like “Hide Another Round” and “I Expect It Always” are built from the same combination of melody, distortion, and blissed-out confusion that has marked Dinosaur’s best work. Even the few songwriting outliers — wobbly girl group approximation on “Take It Back” and chugging cosmic metal on “I Met the Stones” — can’t commit to their changes for long before signature elements like a wailing solo or eerie falsetto vocal harmonies come back into focus. Throughout the album, certain melodies, phrases, guitar leads, and other elements feel familiar, revised slightly from ideas that appeared in different forms on earlier records. This is something that has happened throughout their career, and has always come off more as intentional reflection on their weird, insular universe more than self-cannibalization for lack of ideas. When Mascis’ croaky cadence on “To Be Waiting” faintly recalls a moment from 1991’s Green Mind, or Barlow’s pained delivery on “Garden” (one of the two tracks where he sings lead) evokes the same pleading sadness as his songs on 2007’s Beyond, the effect is more comforting than redundant. Much of Sweep It Into Space plays out in the same way, sounding like what we’ve come to expect from Dinosaur Jr. with very few advancements or revisions to the formula. For a band so singular, an album that doesn’t fix what isn’t broken is a welcome thing, and Sweep It Into Space boasts some of the catchiest and most immediate songs Dinosaur Jr. have released since their reunion. There aren’t many sharp turns or wild surprises, just a one-of-a-kind band doing what they do best.
All Music – Fred Thomas
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