Dinosaur Jr.: Hand It Over (Cherry Red) - Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Dinosaur Jr.

Hand It Over

Cherry Red

Nov 20, 2019 Dinosaur Jr. Bookmark and Share

Hand It Over was the final album Warner Bros.-era Dinosaur Jr. would release before breaking up in 1997, and the band wouldn’t release another until the original members reformed and released 2007’s Beyond. The story is that Warner Bros. gave up on Hand It Over, neglecting to promote the album, and that as such, many people didn’t even know it existed. As a result, both sales and audiences dwindled, and the band faded away. It’s a mighty shame, however, because Hand It Over ranks among the best, and certainly most underrated, Dinosaur Jr. albums.

Released as both a double LP and a 2-CD set, the latter with a multitude of extras, from Cherry Red Records, Hand It Over is both one of the heaviest and one of the most eclectic albums in Dinosaur Jr.‘s catalog.

In 1996, J Mascis was recruited to write and record three songs for the soundtrack to the movie, Grace of My Heart, a film that lovingly revisited both Brill Building-era songwriting and ‘60s Brian Wilson/California pop in love story form. These songs, “Take a Run at the Sun,” “Don’t You Think It’s Time,” and the jaunty “The Pickle Song,” also released as the Take a Run at the Sun EP and all included as bonus tracks to this reissue, present Mascis in a different light, as a songwriter with blatant pop chops, benefiting from an instrumental variety including banjos, pedal steel, and Theremin.

To a certain extent, this experience seems to have bled over into the writing and recording of Hand It Over. “Never Bought It” begins with pounding bass and drums before segueing into a beautiful flute-ish melody that carries the song. “I’m Insane” is driven by front-and-center piccolo trumpet, which delivers a line that instantly worms its way into the brain and becomes the song’s centerpiece. “Mick” is a blatant pop tune, similar to “Take a Run at the Sun” but without the ‘60s California vibe. And “Gettin’ Rough” is led by jaunty banjo. On these tunes, Mascis sounds electric and free to indulge artistic impulses that he hadn’t before, and to thrilling effect.

However, there is also another side of Hand It Over, one that balances these more carefree vibes with a heavier punch. The album opens with the intense march and haunting falsetto of “I Don’t Think.” “Can’t We Move This” announces itself with blistering solo and blazes through nearly four minutes of straight ahead rock. And the pièce de résistance, “Alone,” is 8 minutes of minor key wail, Mascis playing some of his most inspired guitar and singing as if his life depended on it, intoning the title word over and over in menacingly bleak fashion.

Along with the three Grace of My Heart soundtrack tunes, rare tracks, and a couple songs from covers albums (Richard Thompson’s “I Misunderstood” and The Germs’ “What We Do Is Secret”), this reissue features a bonus CD of nine tracks from a 1997 concert in Stockholm. Absolutely piercing, these tracks showcase Dinosaur Jr. at its most fierce. Older tracks like “Out There,” “Feel the Pain,” and “Freakscene” are performed with a pace and fury that outstrip the studio versions, and album cuts like “Never Bought It” and “Alone” perfectly supplement. It’s the perfect complement to a much-missed at the time Dinosaur Jr. classic. All in all another excellent reissue package documenting the life of another terrific Dinosaur Jr. album. (www.cherryred.co.uk)

Author rating: 8.5/10

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