Dinosaur Jr. - The Electronic Anthology Project
At a first glance, this collection of danceable electronic versions of Dinosaur Jr's finest can be both confusing and intimidating. Dino fans are sure to be bewildered by the big switch from grungy fuzz rock to synth riddled new wave. At first glance, the whole affair seems a bit shady. The album cover looks cheaply produced, perhaps on Microsoft Word and looks like an album of cheap remixes my little brother could make. Actually, it's a legit recording by Built to Spill bassist with real, in-studio vocals by Dinosaur Jr's lead singer J. Mascis. Another problem the album suffers is that its title is a bit of a misnomer. While it claims to be an "anthology," 7 of the 9 songs are from the band's breakout album called You're Living all Over Me. Despite these two early handicaps, the album is actually pretty interesting and solid with some very great moments buried inside.
The Electronic Anthology Project makes a bold move by kicking the album off with "Sludgefeast," a lesser known track. Overall though, it happens to be the worst song on the album, a mess of sweeping synths, screechy sound effects and a skittering drum beats. If it didn't sound so close too background music on a cheap iPod app, I probably wouldn't hate it so much. It's too bad many folks will click on this track first, as there are much better tracks on the menu here. "Pond Song" is a more sane song, a very good rendition of a very good cut off their 1988 classic, Bug. It's very New Order, sounding upbeat while rattling off depressing lyrics. "Raisans" loses its high charged emotional energy and becomes a goofball, bass-heavy song of 80s proportions.
With the three weakest tracks out of the way, the gems begin to surface. "In a Jar" is a minimalist composition that hearkens back to the days of Gary Numan while the bouncy "The Lung" drips with keyboard driven nostalgia. "Kracked" buzzes with furor until reaching the climax, a arcade-y rendition of one of J Mascis' finest guitar solos. "Tarpit" is my favorite track here, with a Craft Spells-ian love of reverb laced goodness and the dance floor sensibilities of The Cure. J's vocals are a bit weak on "Little Fury Things", making it come off as deadpan. As much as it pains me to say this, "Feel the Pain" actually sounds pretty great here, with some of the finest keyboard work I've heard in a long time.
Make sure you don't judge this album by its cover. Just give it one or two listens and its corny goodness will entertain, even enthrall you. Perhaps if this was a 5-song EP, its grade would have been higher, as the length of the album is what really kills it.