Dinosaur Jr., Hand It Over
Dino Jr.'s weakest but most interesting release
Perhaps by 1997 J. Mascis realized he could pretty much do what he pleased. He'd found himself enshrined in the underground pantheon, and if platinum success wasn't forthcoming, well, so what? He'd built the kind of cult that could fill concert venues for decades. The result of this perverse freedom was Hand It Over, the weakest Dinosaur Jr. studio album but also in some ways the most interesting. For the first time since Dinosaur, Mascis indulged his love of multiple genres, and wrote music that was both complex and nakedly tender for the first time in his career: "Never Bought It" features a winsome little flute melody that Mascis doesn't even try to smother in feedback. Which isn't to say Hand It Over is a noise-free zone. But even when Mascis goes loud and heavy, the album's rarely ugly, instead favoring pastoral sound-washes and ringing harmonies. It's hard to say why Mascis put the Dinosaur Jr. name in mothballs for nearly 10 years after Hand It Over. The album hardly bombed, and you still saw Dino's signature cartoon character T-shirts everywhere in the late '90s. But nonetheless, Mascis shifted to releasing albums with his own name front-and-center, and Dino Jr. seemed to be one of those bands claimed by the entropy of the late alt-rock days, until an unexpected reconciliation took place in 2005.