Full disclosure: I find it impossible to be impartial about Dinosaur Jr.
“Start Choppin’” was my Year Zero, the song that transported me from Top 40 loving teen to music nerd. It blew my tiny little mind back in 1993 and when (finally) I witnessed J. Mascis and co playing it live in 2013 I wept with pleasure. Since my epiphany during grunge’s annus-awesomeness I delved deep into Dinosaur Jr.’s back catalogue finding a band of remarkable consistency and a plethora of kick-ass tunes.
Over the years I picked up Mascis’ solo and side projects, Sebadoh, and Folk Implosion LPs and, when that wonderful reformation with Lou Barlow occurred in 2005 culminating in Beyond, Farm, and Bet on Sky, I placed them firmly in my top 10 bands of all time. Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not, their 11th album, is the best of the output from the rejuvenated Dinosaur Jr., full of all the “ear bleeding country” noise and hooks that made Bug, Where You Been?, and Without a Sound such classics, but with a lean efficiency that’s rarely been showcased previously.
What then, can I possibly write about Dinosaur Jr. that hasn’t been documented before?
It seems churlish to discuss Mascis’ solos when really all Dinosaur Jr. songs are mere decoration to his exquisite guitar playing, do we need to rake over the Neil Young comparisons again, or discuss the internal tensions that seem finally to have been laid to rest? They are the alt-rock equivalent of AC/DC almost beyond criticism so deeply entrenched in their own style and sound that to reprimand for un-originality or lack of experimentation is about as fruitless as asking Jeff Lynne to write something, “a little less catchy”.
Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not (what is it with Dinosaur Jr. and their constant slackerish slang spelling?), provides plenty to entertain and scant surprises. It’s an album that fans will love and detractors will ignore. It’s quintessential and nonessential, welcome and pointless. For those that want it.
Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not provides everything you could ever want from a Dinosaur Jr. album, and it does so with effortless glee.
The double header of “Goin’ Down” and “Tiny” kick things off in typically rambunctious style bursting with energy, glorious riffs and soaring choruses. They’d be the icing on a particularly delicious cake on any of the band’s previous discography and serve as welcome reminder of just how incredible this power trio can sound when firing on all cylinders. Murph’s pounding drumming and Barlow’s chugging bass offer raucous rhythm for Mascis’s swirling noise to float around; a mixture of metal riffage and Byrdsian jangle that is always perfectly timed to never outstay its welcome. With every listen new thrills are offered up and with that deeper appreciation.
Dinosaur Jr. have always been a band that demands repeat listens and these album openers are no exception.
They are surpassed however, “I Told Everyone” is all dank wall of sound and an echoing riff conjured from some dark recess until it bursts forth in light waiting to soak you in glory whilst the sludgy “I Walk for Miles” sounds like it’s been transported from the depths of some security-lax hell where the devil has begun to let some of his best tunes slip forth for human consumption.
Lou Barlow gets his customary two track quota and delivers the sublime “Love Is…” a classic mid 90s alt rock gem in the style of Cracker or Soul Asylum with a healthy dose of Neil Young sprinkled on top whilst gloomy album closer “Left/Right” feels like a Sebadoh classic sequenced on the wrong album.
But it’s some of Give A Glimpse of What Yer Not’s quieter moments that really elevate the album to classic Dinosaur Jr. status.
The country-fried “Be A Part” is all yearning heartache that transcends to heaven with one of Mascis’ finest solos. The beautiful “Lost All Day” kicks off with the mournful query “Oh baby, what went wrong / with you and me, you and me?” as Mascis yearns for forgiveness. Whilst the almost delicate first half of “Knocked Around” acts as semi-sequel to its predecessor as Mascis’ wails “I miss you all the time” finally admitting that the dream is over before bursting into defiant bluster ready to start afresh.
One track on Give A Glimpse of What Yer Not stands out above all others, “Good to Know” is simply a divine slice of classic Dinosaur Jr.
“Good to Know” is almost a perfect template for Dinosaur Jr.’s entire career; a distillation of everything that makes them great in 3 and a half minutes – with two epic solos! A highlight on one of the best albums of their career, if it’s not a perennial set list opener within the next 5 years I’ll spend 6 months listening to nothing but Bieber B-sides.
I’ve nothing else to add. If you love Dinosaur Jr., you’ll love Give A Glimpse of What Yer Not.
If you don’t love Dinosaur Jr. I don’t give a shit, you’re dead to me anyway.
Rating 4.5 / 5
Head screamer in Dead Arms, Dad to Thomas and big bearded pop-culture geek..