These days, you can't throw a stick without hitting a newly reunited seminal indie band. Name any band that has been dubbed "influential" from the '80s or '90s and, chances are, they're on the road to reunion as we speak. From the regretful (Pixies) to the welcomed (Mission of Burma), reunited bands are being lulled out of retirement to cash in on a scene that they helped establish.
Consider it skeptical nostalgia, but I'm hesitant and doubtful each time I hear about an old band going on a new tour, yet still I feel obligated to support those who helped frame my musical tastes. A few years ago, when it was announced that the original lineup of Dinosaur Jr. (the J/Lou/Murph trifecta) was going to reunite, all that skepticism went right out the window. Finally seeing one of my all-time favorite bands perform their early classics left my inner fanboy fully satiated. However, immediately afterward, one question kept repeating over and over in my head: What comes next?
Dinosaur Jr. could have easily taken the Rolling Stones route—touring extensively on a solid back catalog and churning out a regrettable studio album, and a really shameful live album, every few years or so, just to keep the loyal fans happy. And hell, why not? Making money is every band's dream (no really, it is), and the prospect of living off music forever is pretty appealing. When it was announced that the original Dinosaur Jr. trio would be releasing their first studio album in almost 20 years, the same old skepticism kicked in, once again. However, four seconds into the riff-tastic "Almost Ready," the first track off their new album Beyond, and one thing becomes achingly clear: These guys are not fucking around.
What makes Dinosaur Jr. so appealing, and why they seem to have held up better over time than their peers, is their lack of a specific genre. They were not punk enough for early label SST, not grunge enough for '90s MTV, too classic rock (read: way too many guitar solos) for the average indierocker, and always a bit too sad and simple for everyone else. That, added to the fact that all three members of the original lineup have been consistently making music since Lou Barlow was given the boot from the band in 1989, and it really should come as no surprise that a new studio album was bound to be, at the very least, adequate. Coming into it with a little skepticism is only natural, and frankly encouraged, because it will make this great album, which Beyond truly is, seem all that much greater.
With Beyond, everything that originally made Dinosaur Jr. so fantastic is still intact: the reckless solos, the self-deprecating lyrics, Mascis' frail and forced vocals, and his penchant for writing perfect pop hooks. Beyond is not a sendoff, or an exercise in nostalgia. Instead the album shows Dinosaur Jr. entering the next chapter of their illustrious career. Sounding as cohesive as ever (perhaps J's ego has deflated over the years), these three well-aged men have enough youthful exuberance to prove that maybe, just maybe, aging gracefully as a musician isn't actually so hard to do.