Dinosaur jr have reinvented themselves countless times. They’ve turned the distortion up high and down completely; they’ve unplugged and picked up acoustic guitars; they’ve thrown the guitars away and picked up keyboards, and played with combinations of all of these. Throughout these reincarnations, the pleasures remain constant. Sweet melody, sickening noise and raw emotion are the backbone of every Dinosaur jr song, and with ‘Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not’ it seems the band are happy to settle on exactly what they are. Stripped to the essentials of shredding guitar, weary vocals and propulsive drums and bass, they’ve never sounded more at home.
There’s little in the way of surprise on the trio’s eleventh record, but there’s something comforting about that fact. Focus is purely on the strength of the songs themselves, and this collection is the most consistent and memorable J Mascis and co have crafted quite some time. The freewheeling opener, ‘Goin Down’, is a sunny piece of scuzz rock that shows the band are still finding ways to bring joy and excitement to familiar places.
‘Tiny’ continues with clattering riffs and ear-tickling fuzz. It’s a lean, muscular cut that, like so many Dinosaur Jr songs, opens up into a cathartic guitar solo that’s dizzying and warm even when you can see it coming from around the corner. The tension and release the band work into their songs is just as tangible when you’ve seen the trick done before, and there’s an added giddiness in anticipating these heights.
‘Be a Part’ is an aching ballad that uses the band’s ear for searching melodies to poignant effect. ‘I don’t see a way out/ I don’t see a reason’ Mascis sings, before his guitar erupts into fits of panic. Though built upon the same crunchy textures and stomping rhythms, these three songs feel distinct in terms of their writing; the band are still mining new nuggets of gold out of this well-worn formula.
The Lou Barlow lead tracks continue to be a highlight, wilted and worn even more than Mascis’s downtrodden best. ‘Love is…’ comes forward with inebriated folk that manages to sound both defeated, stumbling and swaggering. His anxious closer transforms from hollow and heartbroken to towering and enraged thanks to the pummeling drums and thick walls of guitar feedback.
‘Give a Glimpse of What Yet Not’ will feel similar to some. It isn’t doing anything we haven’t already heard before, but it might be the most consistently gratifying release the band have conjured since their raw early days. Still, even diehards will be aware that the familiarity of these songs is heartwarming to some and dull to others.
‘Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not’ is out now via Jagjaguar records.
This Dinosaur jr article was written by Stephen Butchard, a GIGsoup contributor