Release Date: Aug 5, 2016
Record label: Jagjaguwar
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Arriving four years after 2012's I Bet on Sky -- the longest stretch of time between albums since Dinosaur Jr. became an active band again in 2007 -- Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not doesn't offer any surface surprises, at least not along the lines of the roaring reunion of 2007's Beyond, or the keyboard colorings of I Bet on Sky. That's not to say Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not doesn't surprise, because it does -- namely, it shocks by sounding as vital as Dinosaur Jr.
Apocalyptic drums crash right into the face of a buzzsaw synth whilst a minimalistic guitar twangs in the corner of the room. This is music for the future. This is music for the end of times. It’s a shock that a group of middle-aged blokes from New England could reinvent themselves so late into their career.
If you haven’t been swayed by the magic of Dinosaur Jr. before, don’t expect the newly released Give A Glimpse of What Yer Not to disengage the guitar-shaped lock off your brain. Since their 2005 reunion more than a decade ago, the trio of J Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph have released three albums of great, loud-as-hell rock music: nothing more, nothing less.
Itâ€™s barely even worth mentioning that this is Dinosaur Jrâ€™s fourth reunion record, because with nearly a decade reunited I think itâ€™s safe to say they are a real band again and not just jumping on the reunion bandwagon to make a buck. But the best part is that all these reunion albums have been solid, if not great. The original trio of J Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph have made more records together in the 2000s now than they did in their original 80s run before Barlow got the boot.Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not hits hard up front, with the chugging â€œGoin Downâ€ and the bouncy â€œTiny,â€ introduced to us through an amazing video featuring roller derby and an adorable and talented skateboarding bulldog.
Since reforming in 2005 after a near-decade-long hiatus, Dinosaur Jr have gone from strength to strength, and this record – the 11th of their career – sees the alternative, quasi-grungers bursting and burning with the energy of their (long lost) youth but channelling it all through the wisdom of frontman J Mascis’ long grey hair. While 2012’s I Bet On Sky was (relatively speaking) a slightly tepid record that sounded a little like Dinosaur Jr trying to sound like themselves, Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not – somewhat ironically, given its title – captures the very essence of the trio from start to end. Tiny fuses melancholy longing with an upbeat, jaunty rhythm that, by their standards, is almost poppy, while Good To Know is full of reckless abandon and defiance in the face of despair.
Blessedly, in the course of a life, there remains an element of stupefaction to obliviously trudge into like an errant snow drift. That same dumb reaction that people give witnessing a magic trick applies to ostensibly more sophisticated entertainment. Since the genre signifiers have begun to carry the editorial funk of a leaky thrift store basement, we are left to gawp at guitar solos more wild and rich than they have any right to be in songs so bubblegum brite.
The fourth episode of the rebooted Dinosaur Jr show sees our leading men settling into a comfortable mid-season routine. Gnomic titles, introverted lyrics directed at a vaguely defined “you”, and yearning vocals rippling through an extravagantly brutish soup of sound: this band’s 30-year narrative arc is a straight line. As ever, it’s unclear exactly what the songs are about, although you’d suspect there aren’t many meditations on a Trump presidency.
A buzz. The sound of a guitar being plugged in.. A chugging but energised riff in that familiar guitar tone..
With Give a Glimpse of What Yet Not, the original Dinosaur Jr. line-up has now made more records since reforming and releasing Beyond in 2007 than they did in their initial run. But this feat by J Mascis, Lou Barlow, and Murph, while a good promotional line for the new record isn’t all that interesting on its own. What is interesting is how now, four albums in, we can track a kind of trajectory for the band since the trio reunited.
New tricks? Whatever, man. Dinosaur Jr’s eleventh album continues on the trajectory they’ve ridden since reforming in 2005: all the chugging tension and squalling release of their early days, married to the relatively pop structures of their 90s nearlymen period. Seems strange to think of ‘em in that latter context now they’ve been duly reappraised with the rest of their generation, and rightfully wear their badges of honour as founding fathers of the alt rock scene.
To say that fans were surprised when the original lineup of Dinosaur Jr. reunited in 2005 to support Merge's reissues of their classic work would be a massive understatement given the past resentments between guitarist J Mascis and bassist Lou Barlow that led to their initial breakup after their third album, 1988's Bug. Fast forward 11 years and the reunion has lasted almost four times as long as their initial period as a band (not counting the records Mascis made mainly on his own under the Dinosaur Jr.
It’s hard to believe that it’s now been more than 10 years since Dinosaur Jr. kicked off the unexpectedly fertile third chapter of their long and storied career. This period has now lasted longer than both the trio’s first original “classic” period from ‘84-89 as well as the second era post-Lou Barlow from ‘89-97. On their latest, the steady and excellent Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not, it’s clear that their well for inspiration has not yet run dry.
It’s been 31 years since J Mascis, Lou Barlow, and Murph released their first record together as Dinosaur. They’d release two more before Barlow would leave the band, and then another two before Murph would follow suit. After three more records by himself (and I mean, by himself — he played pretty much every instrument during Dinosaur Jr.’s time on Sire), Mascis would retire the moniker for nearly a decade, only to return with the band’s original lineup in 2007.
With Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not, the fourth album recorded by Dinosaur Jr.'s reunited original line-up, the Amherst, MA trio have surpassed the output of their original, much heralded three-LP run. And for the fourth time in the current millennium, the trio have managed to push the boundaries of their sound without tarnishing their own legacy.Of course, any pushing of "boundaries" in the world of Dino Jr. is relative; their core sound — squealing guitar, thrashing rhythm section and singer J.
Dinosaur Jr. would simply seize to exist if not for their remarkable guitar work. The longstanding trio’s reverence for the guitar is instrumental to the band’s longevity, both personal and professional, and will certainly outlive both J Mascis and Lou Barlow. Despite how much we hear about their patchy relationship, the fact remains that Dinosaur Jr.
The guitar splatter of Dinosaur Jr. is one of the most instantly recognizable sounds of the early-‘90s alt-rock boom. But even given the influence of the trio’s sticky noise-smooches, few of their successors have ever pushed a distortion pedal as well. Now deep into their surprising second tenure — returning for their fourth new LP since 2007, after taking a near-decade off — the band’s as unstoppable on 11th album Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not as frontman J Mascis’ infinitely grey hair.
In an American political climate fraught with chaos and uncertainty, Dinosaur Jr.'s Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not is the warm, comforting blanket of Marshall-stack fuzz we need. The band has become the alt-rock equivalent of AC/DC or Motorhead: Their sound is formulaic, but frontman J. Mascis's guitar tone, his effectively no-frills songwriting, and the rhythm section's synergy is irresistibly familiar.
Eleven years have passed since perma-frowned, slacker-rock trailblazers Dinosaur Jr. re-formed, and, on the trio's fourth reunion outing, frontdude J Mascis – now age 50 – sounds as downtrodden, lost and world-weary as he did at age 20. His voice creaks and croaks as he parses romantic misunderstandings, his fingers gravitate toward his guitar's most acrimonious and anxious chords and he serves as a supernatural channel to some of the most melancholy guitar solos this side of Rust Never Sleeps.
With a title like ‘Give A Glimpse of What Yer Not,’ you might expect Dinosaur Jr to be moving into unknown territory with their eleventh album. It’s not totally out of the question, especially considering that J Mascis’ last solo album in 2014 saw him turning down the volume. Really though, it’s probably an ironic title. Even on opener ‘Goin’ Down’ Mascis sings “I’ve got more of the same/ I’ve got more of who you know.” This is eleven tracks of Dinosaur Jr doing what Dinosaur Jr do best: fuzzy, classic rock.
Once the dictionary definition of “band disharmony”, Dinosaur Jr in 2016 are a remarkably steady – even predictable – proposition. Those hoping for a sudden detour into glitch or Simpsonswave are likely to be disappointed by Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not, which instead continues J Mascis’s noble efforts to pair the catchiest possible melodies with the sludgiest guitar lines known to man. It’s a good time for Dinosaur Jr to return, what with the likes of Nai Harvest and Yuck liberally cribbing from their college-rock songbook – though none of them has quite managed to match the sheer abandon of Mascis’s guitar-playing or the quavering desperation of his vocals.
In one word, SPEC-tacular! Ten albums and about 24 EPs after launching on the late, beloved Homestead imprint in ’85, originally as Dinosaur, can we call them Dinosaur Sr. finally? This, the fourth album since Lou, Murph and J. reunited, finds them flying high in the holyshitosphere, with what may be their finest stuff since You’re Living All Over Me.
When Dinosaur Jr.’s original lineup of J Mascis, Lou Barlow, and Murph was restored (after much fraught and remarked-upon time apart) and 2007’s Beyond was released, everyone who remembered the first three albums (Dinosaur, Bug, and You’re Living All Over Me) heaved a sigh of relief that blew the tall grass at the edges of the pastoral indie landscape. Here were the elders, returned to a world ready to remark upon them further and now in greater depth. The band members’ grievances acknowledged, though not wholly absolved, they seemed cautiously game for whatever was to come next.
Reformations never work. Unless you’re Massachusettsian sludge-rockers Dinosaur Jr., of course, then you produce career-best albums and get fucking Henry Rollins tagging along on your tour bus just so he can have a little chat with you before each show. What’s that I hear you cry? The Pixies, Mudhoney and My Bloody Valentine have also risen from the grave to show that the late 80s alt guitar movement is alive, booted up and kicking? Well touché sir, but the moment one of them equals or, God forbid, surpasses the quality of their golden age records, please feel free to let me know so I can take my copy of Farm off repeat.
The old comedic question is, “You wouldn’t hit a guy with glasses, would ya?” Don’t look now, but bespectacled trio Dinosaur Jr levels their own unwittingly potent blow with their latest, Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not, their fourth LP since the band’s unlikely reunion now a decade ago. Dinosaur Jr’s comeback LP, 2007’s Beyond, was a hugely unexpected return to form, wholly unsurprising in its sound, a tour de force in confidence, urgency, and conviction as if the band had never strayed in the first place. Follow-ups Farm and I Bet On Sky had the trio stretching out and diversifying their instrumental palette – a relative exercise for a band as staunchly rooted as Dinosaur Jr – respectively, yet marginally bogging down the qualitative success of Beyond rather than building on and exceeding it.
Following the welcome break of ‘Love Is…’, the first of two stirring Barlow tracks worthy of his other band Sebadoh’s finest moments, the record’s second half sinks under the weight of Mascis’s anguish. ‘I Walk For Miles’ is a tiring Black Sabbath plod under heavy, grey skies. By the time we get to the weary shimmer of ‘Mirror’ (“I’ve been crawling around since I met you”), he’s on his knees.It’s left to Barlow’s ‘Left/Right’ to finish ‘Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not’ on a peak, a clear-headed confessional (“You broke me down / Spoke to my heart”) with drums and bassline given space to breathe around Mascis’s descending arcs of guitar fire.
Even if you've only heard one J. Mascis guitar solo, you've heard all J. Mascis's guitar solos. For fans of his playing, this is what makes it so beautiful: it's an endless cascade of variations on the usual scales and chords, always the same but always different, an ever-present stream of emotion inside a man who otherwise only says "hey" or "yup." You've likely already decided whether you're on the Dinosaur Jr.