Release Date: Sep 18, 2012
Genre(s): Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock
Record label: Jagjaguwar
Music Critic Score
How the Music Critic Score works
Buy I Bet on Sky from Amazon
I got into Dinosaur Jr. in an ass-backwards way. In the early 2000s I watched The O.C. because I thought it would offer a conversation starter with girls I didn’t know how to start a conversation with. Instead, I ended up with a hidden addiction that would have probably gone over worse than crack ….
Just when you thought guitar rock had gone the way of checkered flannel, Dinosaur Jr. come lumbering back with yet another slab of post-reunion material. This is their 10th studio record, the third since they reconciled in 2005. Lou Barlow is onboard, of course; trying to sell grumpy, old alterna-“teens” on a configuration of the band without him would be like trying to sell those same exact people on a Guided by Voices reunion without Tobin Sprout.
Can you think of any band in the alt-rock era that’s had a better second act than Dinosaur Jr. has had? No, one-off reunions don’t count, but it’s not like any of them can match the way Dinosaur Jr. has re-emerged after apparent extinction with a nice streak of albums as good as—if not better than—those from what was supposed to be its heyday.
Now that Dinosaur Jr. is an actual working band and not a one-off reunion, they can settle into the business of being a band: touring regularly and cutting records where they subtly push at the boundaries of what defines the band's sound, as they do on 2012's I Bet On Sky. By some measures, the quietest record of their new millennium reunion, I Bet On Sky rarely roars with abandon -- oddly, it's Lou Barlow who brings the noise with the appropriately named "Rude" and "Recognition," but J Mascis does kick in the glorious breakneck rocker "Pierce the Morning Rain" -- with the band indulging in different textures and tempos, opening up their music in a way the concentrated Farm didn't quite manage.
By the time Dinosaur Jr came to record their third album, 1988’s Bug, band relations were far from peachy. Afraid of rejection and keen to store work for his Sebadoh project, bassist Lou Barlow did not contribute any songs, and for the one tune on which he did sing lead, J Mascis sadistically persuaded him to scream the line “Why, why don’t you like me?” for so many takes that he began coughing up blood. Barlow was not exactly a silent martyr: he also antagonised his bandmates to the extent that drummer Murph once tried to attack him while sleepwalking and Mascis tried to attack him while fully awake, in the middle of a gig.
What happens to reformed bands that overstay their initial nostalgia-driven welcome? It’s rare for them to make notable new music, and it’s even rarer for their third album since reuniting to yield some of their best work. ‘I Bet On Sky’ can’t hope to compete with the glory-era Dinosaur of the late ’80s, and nor does it try. Instead, we find them expertly pulling off previously alien tricks such as nuance and pianos to complement J Mascis’ effortless fretboard heroics and perma-jaded vocals.
If you were a Dinosaur Jr. fan the first time around, it still seems amazing, three albums into their fantastic post-2005 reunion run, that they're together at all. People mention that Lou Barlow was dismissed and that he and J Mascis had clashes, but it felt darker than that. I went to one of Sebadoh's early shows during the tour for 1991's III; Barlow was sour about being fired, and he punctuated songs with jokes about J Mascis.
Dinosaur Jr.I Bet On Sky[Jagjaguwar; 2012]By Colin Joyce; September 24, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetWhat has spawned this late career resurgence in the life of our Dinosaur Jr. family unit? Back in 1989, Mom and Dad split, leaving little Bug and big bro You’re Living All Over Me to fend for themselves (good kids those two). In the intermittent years Dad’s seen other people and spawned various other offspring that never really measured up — though they do have their relative merits — and Mom’s cut out a path from her own, free from Dad’s shadow, to shine in her own right as a parent.
Let's crunch some numbers real quick. I Bet On Sky is Dinosaur Jr.'s 10th album, and third since the seemingly inoperable rift between laconic guitar god J Mascis and emotional pillar-of-DIY bassist Lou Barlow was finally stitched back together. Dinosaur Jr. has now existed in its reunited form for seven years, two more than this lineup managed previously (1984-89, which encompassed the band's formation and the releases of Dinosaur, You're Living All Over Me, and Bug).
As will surely be noted, I Bet on Sky, the latest from Dinosaur Jr., is the third album to be released by the reformed original lineup of J Mascis, Murph, and Lou Barlow. Alongside that observation might be the factoid that with this release, the creative output of Dinosaur Jr. v.2.0 now matches that of the band prior to Barlow’s departure in 1989 at three records each.
Never mind that the original Dinosaur Jr trio has been together longer since reuniting than they did during their original stint. Here’s what really matters: The music Dinosaur Jr has released since reuniting is good enough to make you think that they never broke up in the first place. That’s not to say that their music still has the uncontained swashes of volume and noise and proto-grunge energy that characterized an album like You’re Living All Over Me, but if 2009’s Farm didn’t convince you that these guys are for real, I Bet On Sky should.
Since re-forming in 2005, Dinosaur Jr have sensibly quit the public bickering and made records that augment rather than detract from their canon, edging ever closer to the sound of Neil Young's Crazy Horse output as they slow down. Their third post-reunion album is another assured collection, with J Mascis's dazzling guitar work as ever taking centre stage, his croaked vocals, meanwhile, suggesting that here is a man who is not au fait with the cosmetic powers of Auto-Tune. Inevitably, there's nothing quite as astonishing as 1988 single Freak Scene here, but Watch the Corners and Pierce the Morning Rain show there's plenty of life in them yet.
If you've heard even a fraction of the music Dinosaur Jr have released since the mid-1980s (and if you haven't, treat yourself to Freak Scene and The Wagon), broadly speaking you already know what their 10th album sounds like. J Mascis doesn't so much sing as lie in the gutter and murmur through a pile of dead leaves and gravel. But set against the sleepy crackle of his voice is the coruscating energy of his guitar, which strains at the leash of every song until it surges into a solo of needling, insistent power.
With 27 years under its belt, Dinosaur Jr. has grown quite comfortable in its post-punk skin. But J Mascis and crew don’t confuse comfort for laziness on their latest effort, I Bet On Sky. The album marks Dinosaur Jr.’s 10th studio release and third since reforming in 2005, allowing the band to mellow out while still packing its signature punch.On “Don’t Pretend You Didn’t Know,” Mascis kicks the album off with his distinctive jangly guitar, not nearly as distorted as it usually is but definitely moodier, and a synthesized piano joins in for added gloom.
We’ve been spoiled by Dinosaur Jr. Their 2005 reunion was such a surprise, not only because it came before the wave of ’90s indie rock reunions of the past five years, but also because of how vital the resulting album, Beyond (2007), turned out to be. And they didn’t stop there. In 2009, the original trio of J Mascis, Lou Barlow, and Murph released Farm, another dynamic record that harkened back to the sound of their late-‘80s heyday.
Dinosaur Jr., in any iteration, have never made a bad record. There were the great Dinosaur albums: Bug, Green Mind. And the not so good ones: Without a Sound. Therefore, to say that the band's post-2005 reunion efforts have been amongst their best is lofty praise. Their third such record continues ….
As ever, Dinosaur Jr. successfully marry heaviosity with a warm, tuneful sensibility. Jude Clarke 2012. Three albums in to the Dinosaur Jr. reformation, and it’s very much as if they’ve never been away. The fractious history of the original three-piece – J Mascis (guitar, vocals), Lou Barlow ….
Oh, Dinosaur Jr; Uh, Dinosaur Jr. They were the two ways I was going to start this review. The former to demonstrate the magic this band can create. The latter to purvey the self-anointed disappointment of ‘I Bet On Sky’. Now, it should be clarified that this album isn’t bad. But with a band ….
is available now