Music Reviews
Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not

Dinosaur Jr. Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not

(Jagjaguwar) Rating - 7/10

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. has been writing records for over thirty two years. Let that sink in for a minute. So if there’s reason to believe that Barlow and Mascis are such an explosive pairing, then they’re certainly doing things right by keeping a distance that’s healthy for both parties involved.

How that influences their songwriting process is an entirely different matter that is worth examining, since the trio are never going to change their very primal setup of bass, guitar, and drums. Each Dinosaur Jr. record tweaks the formula ever so slightly with reliable consistency, just enough for the regular listener to enjoy outside of the restless guitar gear head who knows every Mascis guitar lick with a scientific exactitude. And why change it: it just wouldn’t work if it weren’t for Mascis’s love-stricken heroic anthems, Barlow’s slightly-askew appearances during mid-show intermission, and Murph’s effectively-timed drum patterns.

It’s also easy to take for granted how Dinosaur Jr.’s third phase has lasted longer than their previous two incarnations. Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not is their fourth album in ten years, also after a four year break, and though their consistent vitality remains intact they do offer a few new good reasons to stick around. Every Dinosaur Jr. offering has that fiery lead single, and this time it’s Tiny, a fuzz pop gem where Mascis repeatedly pleas I wanna know in characteristically weary fashion as he indulges in another one of his workmanlike solos. The misty-eyed ballad Be a Part is also one of their more alluring songs on record, a straightforward rocker with a crushing gossamer guitar line that harkens back to the intensely downhearted crunchers found in Where You Been.

The defining element that has shaped every Dinosaur Jr. record in the past decade is tempo, which is surprising considering how Murph’s carefully-measured timekeeping is really what controls Mascis’s room for improvisation. It’s sometimes hard to gauge the slight differences at hand, like in Good to Know, where Mascis delivers a memorable solo that’s almost obscured by the band’s insistence to keep things locked in one set groove. It gives Give a Glimpse, or any of their records since Beyond, a linearity that sucks out some of the energy regardless of their tight band dynamics.

But most amusing of all is how Barlow’s contributions actually acclimate quite seamlessly with Mascis’s more carefree pursuits, as Love Is… is a poised folk-rock song that actually sounds like Mascis is happy to write around his melody instead of the other way around. His second contribution, Left/Right, begins with a vaguely scrappy dissonance akin to his work in Sebadoh until it segues beautifully into an emotionally-rousing chorus. Perhaps it’s the first time Mascis is letting his guard down for Barlow to fully flourish, but still, the final result exhibits a partnership that takes years to develop and maintain.

So even if Dinosaur Jr. don’t make any radical changes on Give a Glimpse, they do sound like they’re heading into a transitional period that may either build or destroy their collective productivity. There's no denying the adroit songwriting that’s on display here (they are veterans, after all), as they continue to chug along with low-stakes, yet engaging releases that cement their place as living rock royalty who’ve never gotten their due.