Sweep It into Space is Dinosaur Jr.’s fifth proper studio album since the original lineup reunited in 2005. At this point, the reconverged trio of guitarist/singer J. Mascis, bassist/singer Lou Barlow, and drummer Murph have now been together longer than they were apart. The group’s latest effort proves the stunning musicianship and collective songwriting prowess that Mascis and Barlow managed to reignite on their last four records was no fluke. With the assistance of co-producer Kurt Vile, the Western Massachusetts alternative rock vets’ newest collection finds Dinosaur Jr. still have plenty of ideas and unbridled enthusiasm to offer.
The briefest possible moment of amp hum can be heard before “I Ain’t,” Sweep It into Space’s opener, kicks the record into action. Mascis’ trademark world-weary vocals and emotive lead guitar ease listeners nicely into the album’s first half. Kurt Vile joins the band on “I Ran Away” strumming a sprightly 12-string that adds a nice layer of shimmering optimism to the track. Although there aren’t any ballads on the record, “Garden”, the first of two Barlow-sung songs, comes close. “Don’t make it harder, hand me your hand, no time to wait,” Lou sings in his familiar, earnest lovelorn croon. Side A ends with the upbeat “Hide Another Round” providing a showcase for Murph’s excellent, machine-gun-like drumming that precedes one of Mascis’ most memorable solos on the record.
Sweep It into Space’s second half is opened with “And Me”, a track which unabashedly directly cribs the acoustic strumming of The Cure’s “In Between Days” to great effect. A welcome change-up drops into the album’s sequence in the form of the spritely “Take It Back”. Here, Mascis plays an uncharacteristically peppy piano that playfully prances through the song as he sings, “Hey now take it back, hey now right on track, hey now give me that away from you.” Sweep It into Space is concluded with Barlow’s second and final offering. From its opening four-count on a muted electric guitar, to its pulled back moment halfway in that reveals Lou’s sweetly vulnerable vocals, “You Wonder” makes for a tender and emotive ender, one that, if not for the inclusion of a fuzzed-out Mascis solo, would have fit perfectly on Sebadoh’s excellent nineties indie rock high-water mark, Harmacy.
A single great album from a reunited band thirty-five-plus years into their career is rare. A five-album streak is downright unheard of. Song for song, Sweep It into Space is nothing short of a miracle in terms of its fresh sound and feel birthed by the apparent ebullience of its creators. Dinosaur Jr. owe us nothing. Fans of American indie rock are unbelievably lucky to witness this great band’s enviable and phenomenal third act play out during their lifetimes. Sweep It into Space is a winner.