5 September 2016

Dinosaur Jr. - Give A Glimpse of What Yer Not

I still remember when I first heard/saw Dinosaur Jr., it was 1994 and they appeared on a TV in the UK called 'The Word'.  It was late night, stupid culture show design for when people were coming out of pubs.  Some famous moments include Kurt Cobain calling Courtney Love the best fuck in the world, Sepultra performing whilst fans were in a cage, L7 singer Donita Sparks taking out a tampon on stage and many more.  But my personal favourite was always when Dinosaur Jr appeared to promote their album 'Where You Been' and performed the song 'Start Choppin''; the band were kicking out the song and it was going on for a while, something that did not bother me in the slightest.  But the show was obviously on a schedule and it went to a pre-recorded clip for the next interview (I cannot remember what it was).  What I do remember when they came back from the video was that the band were still playing, making a glorious racket and the presenters were laughing as it was totally out of their control that the band had not stopped.  Ever since then, I have had a soft spot for these guys.

So, a brief history on Dinosaur Jr. - formed in 1984 in Amherst, Massachusetts they started with the name Dinosaur until 1987 when supergroup The Dinosaurs sued them, which forced them to add the Jr. to the name.  Since they started, the band have been known for their use of feedback, the dependency of the loud/quite dynamic to their sound (which pre-dates bands such as The Pixies, Nirvana and others), J. Mascis's drone vocals and the influence of The Birthday Party & Nick Cave to their sound.  This release is their eleventh album overall, their fourth since they reunited the classic line-up in 2005 and it follows the 2012 album, 'I Bet On Sky'.   With this release, the band have released more with the reunion classic line-up than they did the first time around.  I know that they are better known for their album 'Bug', but I have always preferred 'Where You Been' and 'Farm', something about these albums just make me happy and smile.  With solo albums, side projects and other distractions going on, it is sometimes a surprise they get to release anything at all.  But how does it sound?  Is it any good?  Well, let us find out......

"Goin Down" is the first song on the album, it was the second to be released as a single and it might as well be called "If It Ain't Broke, Why Fix It?" as it keeps that faithful technique that I first all first fell in love with all the way back in my youth.  It does not sound retro, it does not sound dated, it sounds as fresh as ever with an uplifting riff that has a wonderful down tuned tone to the song.  Lyrically it is a song asking for confirmation that a partner is still going to be there once everything is over, but it is completely positive sounding song that I just find myself smiling like the Cheshire Cat.  "Tiny" was the first song to be released to promote the album, but is second on the record - should have been the other way around?  Who knows, but what I can tell you is that is keeps up that conflicting positive vibe to the music and miserable new experience to the lyrics that started on "Goin Down".  This time it is dealing with anxiety and the effects that this can have on a person, it is a deep song that is still good for a jump around and a mosh.  Another fantastic number that is a beautiful contradiction of two differing feelings (between the words and the music).  "Be A Part" is the next song on the album, this is the first song on the album where both the music and the lyrics are in tandem and they have a melancholic taint that hits the heart and watches it bounce down the stairs with little disregard for the inevitable outcome.  It is a great number, incredibly well-crafted and a fantastic solo that will have people wishing they could play guitar.  It might be a simple grunge tune, but it is an effective one that shares the loneliness and lets people know that they are not alone.

"I Told Everyone" keeps up the sad feeling to the music, but it still has a slight uplift to the song in the guitar part that it is hard not to let the hopes rise that there is something good in the world to come.  It is a strong and powerful number; the band are sounding as tight as ever on this song that bounces off well with the sadness to the vocal delivery that makes this song another wonderful ambivalence that makes me smile as long as the song is in the world.  "Love Is...." is the first of two songs wrote by Lou Barlow on this album, with Barlow swapping vocal duties with Mascis on this one.  It has a classic rock sound that is not always obvious in the mix that is Dinosaur Jr. or even appreciated in their sound.  Barlow has a Neil Young quality to his vocals and it is one of the best songs on the album with an acoustic flare to the guitars, a beautiful solo (each song has one of those on here) and for a gentle song it is loud as a bomb - effective and heart-breaking once more.  "Good to Know" brings back the energy to the album with the same sort of confliction that has made this album such a joy to behold. It once again employs the stop/start & quite/loud dynamic that I love and at times it sounds like there are solos happening all the way through the song.  It might not have the gravitas of "Love Is....", but it does have an emotional heart that makes me feel warm inside (probably in a way that was not the aim of the band).  "I Walk for Miles" is quite possibly the darkest moment of the album with a sound that sounds as heavy as Black Sabbath in places, some more solos and another set of lyrics that sound as if the world is ending.  This song is about trying to reach a home, a sanctuary, a haven from the storm and it sounds as if the weather is not abating at all during the number.  It is the heaviest song on the album and it is one of the most memorable as well.

After such a heavy and desolate moment of brilliance, “Lost All Day" comes across as a little twee in comparison.  But it is still a good song in its own right, another tale for the broken hearts that will make the world seem less lonely and that others are out there who know what pain feels like.  Whilst it is not the best song on the album, it is still a decent number that keeps up the good work of the album.  "Knocked Around" slows everything down, takes the speed out of the album with a slow number that continues the over-arching themes of pain, loneliness and a longing for someone to come back.  It is so gentle that it could easily be ignored by some people, but that is not a good idea as it is has a heart of gold, a brilliant drone and then a kick-ass, alternative boot up the arse towards the end of the song with that trade-mark solo that makes everything much better and that misery really does love company!  I love this song, it is the embodiment of the quite/loud dynamic and it fits the core values of the album like a glove.  The penultimate song of the album is called "Mirror" which starts with the drums fading in, a sharp guitar sound and is very heavy on the quite/loud dynamic once more, but without the dramatic display that was on "Knocked Around".  It is another humdinger of a song, happiness is not its calling card and it is awaiting more misery to throw at you with every note and even the solo sounds as if sadness is its only companion.  This is not a happy song, the place is called agony and the mood is foreboding.... of course, I love it. Ending the album is the second Lou Barlow number and it is called "Left/Right" which is a beautiful number, I mean this is probably the best of the album - actually, it is the best of the album and this record has a lot of outstanding tracks.  It is beautiful song with a great riff, a beautiful pattern and one of the best post-grunge era songs that I have heard and it ends the album on a gorgeous high. 

This album is an album that does two things for Dinosaur Jr. - firstly, it keeps them relevant to new comers and it will also keep the hardcore fan base extremely happy.  It has everything you want from the band, plus some classics in waiting on the album that will become staples of the Dinosaur Jr. set for years to come.  The second thing it accomplishes is that it does not fuck with the legacy of the band, it is a worthwhile addition to that back catalogue and in years to come I have a feeling that it will actually be one of the highest rated album from Messrs Mascis, Barlow and Murph.  The performance is spot on and it works very well, to nit-pick I would say the track ordering could have been tweaked a little, but that is just looking for problems.  It is a great album, one that keeps on giving with each listen - what a great album.

9 out of ten - Almost perfect, almost....

Top Track - Left/Right

You can purchase Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not on Amazon here.

You can visit the Dinosaur Jr. website here.

You can follow the activities of Dinosaur Jr. on Facebook here.

You can stream Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not on Spotify here.

You can stream Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not on Deezer here.

You can stream Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not on Tidal here. 

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