Dinosaur Jr – Give A Glimpse of What Yer Not
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. Still, those years on the edge of mainstream success provided important lessons –specifically, they know what works.
Lyrically, they plough the same furrows as ever: J Mascis yowls eloquently and frankly about anxiety (Key lines: ‘I can’t face myself’ and ‘I’m overwhelmed’) while Barlow dives into the frustrating internal politics of relationships. Musically it’s still fuzz-coated powerpop interspersed with skull-crunching riffs (I Walked For Miles), bittersweet jangles (Be A Part) and gnarly, face-melting solos (virtually everything here). All crucial ingredients for a great Dinosaur Jr record, essentially, and with the oft-morose pace of previous album I Bet On Sky almost entirely expelled, you’re left with something as heroic and human as anything they’ve produced since 1991.
In fact, concision is the newest element here – nothing over five and a half minutes, which also means there’s little in the way of spiraling, virtuosic, hyper-psychedelic codas to truly lose yourself in. These songs are to-the-point, with merely short bursts of Mascis’ signature six-string dynamite, and while that makes for a nice pop addition to the Dinosaur canon, it can occasionally feel like missing the point a bit.
They’ve long since made it clear that the complex structures of 1987’s essential You’re Living All Over Me are not to be repeated, but they’ve never fully forgone intricacy for immediacy’s sake, and a little more trance-inducing shredding wouldn't have gone amiss.
Still, that’s a pretty niggly concern overall. The chunky vitality of Tiny is as natty a slice of rock’n’roll as they’ve ever put together, and when elsewhere you catch ‘em cribbing the outro from Springsteen’s Thunder Road (turning it into a different kind of sweetly perky hook in the process), you may even permit yourself a wry smile.
In all seriousness, when was the last time you found yourself complaining that a guitar-based rock album didn’t feature enough solos? Or that a veteran rock band weren’t sticking to what they know best? If the 50something version of Dinosaur Jr is happy to keep refining a formula that was pretty damn fine in the first place, we’d be fools not to indulge 'em.