Album cover of Sweep It Into Space by Dinosaur Jr

DINOSAUR JR.

Sweep It Into Space
Jagjaguar 2021
Producers:
J Mascis and Kurt Vile

Side one:
1. I Ain’t
2. I Met the Stones
3. To Be Waiting
4. I Ran Away
5. Garden
6. Hide Another Round

Side two:
1. And me
2. I Expect It Always
3. Take it Back
4. N Say
5. Walking to You
6. You Wonder



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STATIC AND FEEDBACK NEW CLASSIC

Sweep It Into Space is just the most recent triumph by Dinosaur Jr.

Front cover of Dinosaur Jr - Sweep It Into Space

By NICK TAVARES
STATIC and FEEDBACK Editor

Here’s a theoretical question, where the answer will vary depending upon your mileage, but: through the past 15 years or so, has there been a more dependable band than Dinosaur Jr.?

I’m talking of course of the band as they’ve existed since reuniting the classic lineup of J Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph, and that first resulting album, 2007’s Beyond, ruled. Not that the stuff that Mascis piloted in the 1990s from Green Mind through Hand It Over wasn’t great, of course. But Beyond had an urgency and a surprising freshness that doesn’t typically follow these kinds of post-reunion studio romps. That record was a riot in the best way, burning down the house from front to back with a shocking sense of desperation and glee.

Stopping right there, that would’ve been enough to declare the endeavor a victory. But the hits kept coming, with Farm in 2009, I Bet on Sky in 2012 and Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not in 2016, one and all killer records from front to back that have a signature sound, to be sure, but inventive songs and arrangements that keep them all sounding like retread exercises in brand rearrangement.

It’s in that spirit that we come to Sweep It Into Space, the band’s 2021 effort that might be a pinnacle in this piece of the story. And, though delayed by three years, it’s well past time I give it its due and attempt to illustrate its greatness.

All that should take, though, is 30 seconds of the opening track, “I Ain’t,” to signal that, yes, this second-half renaissance is far from over. Keep it going through its follow-up body blows of “I Met the Stones” and “To Be Waiting,” and it’s further evidence that the heater that Dinosaur Jr. has been on is unique in and of itself. These guys have remained vital while maintaining an aesthetic, and it’s on display throughout the 12 songs on Sweep It Into Space.

That kind of consistency comes in plenty of colors, too. If you’re just looking for a squealing solo coming out of Mascis’ Marshall stacks, then pick one out of a hat — “I Expect It Always,” for example. That inventive, singular guitar playing will be there, backed by a monstrous rhythm section that always rises to meet the moment. Those thunderous tempos are all over the record, driving on “Hide Another Round” and “N Say,” swinging on “Walking to You,” powerful always.

But there are curveballs, too. Right on the heels of “I Expect it Always,” “Take it Back,” is propelled by what sounds like a toy piano before the snarl of distortion and stop-start rhythms bring it back into something more recognizable. It’s not different for the sake of being different, but evidence of growth amidst this journey of five albums since the return of the band proper.

As always, Barlow’s contributions are standouts, with “Garden” taking on an almost orchestral sweep, despite being propelled by guitars. While that jagged edge drive Mascis’ songs, it becomes a color on Barlow’s tunes that create a different kind of tension within the song itself, and provides a sense of relief when running through the album from front to back. And in what’s becoming something of a tradition, Barlow gets the final word in “You Wonder,” meditating on the peaks and valleys of everything that can be encountered in a life and career, before arriving at a place of acceptance.

Despite their standing as pillars of their genre and scene for coming up on 40 years, Dinosaur Jr. has led a delightfully under-the-radar existence. And that might not be better illustrated than on “I Met the Stones,” where Mascis recounts all that the band has accomplished, traveling the world and meeting the biggest rock and roll band to ever make that journey, but he still couldn’t manage to reach someone important. It’s intentionally vague and, in that, a poignant reminder of how human we all are. This can mean everything and still be infuriatingly meaningless. In between, we’re just people trying to get back.

And it’s been a weird few trips around the sun. So, acknowledging that the past three years have just been a blur anyway, please enjoy this belated praise heaped upon Sweep It Into Space, another entry in a catalog that still doesn’t contain a dud, but expands and strengthens this universe of music that we get to experience. I’ve had it on my shelf for 35 months at this point. It’ll remain in rotation until it warrants less than that kind of attention. But for this band, I don’t expect that to be the case. In these times, it’s nice to have something to depend on like that.

 

E-mail Nick Tavares at nick@staticandfeedback.com