Dinosaur Jr. – Hand It Over – Review

Dinosaur Jr.

Hand It Over (Reprise)
by Sheril Stanford

So, Dinosaur Jr. has a new album out and you’re undoubtedly wondering, who is Dino Jr.. these days? Well, Mike Johnson, the band’s sole “other” constant member, returns to bass duty on Hand It Over, and this time out, George Brez mans the drums. (Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine also makes a cameo appearance on backing vocals.) But of course, J Mascis remains the essence of Dinosaur Jr.. The man is an enigma – he gets away with being a guitar-solo kinda guy in a non-guitar-solo world (and many would argue that he doesn’t even play the instrument that well). Mascis’ voice is tragically horrid, ranging from tuneless mumble, to whine, to shriek, and frequently his mumbling/whining/shrieking is woefully off-key. (The first track on this disc, “I Don’t Think,” illustrates both attributes beautifully.) Still, there’s something undeniably engaging about Dino Jr.. It probably has to do with that peculiar combination of sounds – half yawning, eye-rubbing, just woke up, and half kick-your-ass, wide awake, pure rock.

Hand It Over is vintage Dino Jr. – Sonic Youth-like noise rock, married to Neil Young-esque whomping, feedback-drenched melodies and lyrics of tragedy ‘n’ loss. The good news is the return of “new sounds,” a Dino trait which Mascis seems to periodically abandon. For instance, the second track, “Never Bought It,” features a combination of dark ‘n’ smudgy bass and a lilting flute line, and “I’m Insane” takes a turn with a trumpet. “Alone” is marked by the sounds of Mascis’ newly acquired Mellotron, and a banjo pairs nicely with Mascis’ apathetic falsetto on the decidedly non-rough “Gettin’ Rough.” Perhaps most appealing of the lot is “Sure Not Over You,” marked by a melodic guitar line, an almost swingy, smoothly syncopated rhythmic feel, and virtually no bass.

You take a great movie like, say, The Godfather – ya got yer romance fer the women, and ya got yer death and destruction fer the men. That’s why it’s great. Ya see what I’m saying here?