Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not, 180G Black Vinyl LP
It’s hard to believe that it’s now been more than 10 years since Dinosaur Jr. kicked off the unexpectedly fertile third chapter of their long and storied career. This period has now lasted longer than both the trio’s first original “classic” period from ‘84-89 as well as the second era post-Lou Barlow from ‘89-97. On their latest, the steady and excellent Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not, it’s clear that their well for inspiration has not yet run dry.
Beginning with Beyond in 2007, each of the Dinosaur Jr. “new” records have been relatively consistent in form, structure and quality. Although regularly cited as a return to the original band’s sound, the recent songwriting truthfully draws less from the trio’s first go-around and more from the melodic guitar pop of J Mascis’ underrated solo records More Light (2000) and Free So Free (2002). Of these records, Beyond was perhaps the most songful, with cuts like “Almost Ready,” “Been There All The Time,” and “We’re Not Alone” sweeter than just about anything found on the band’s original three ‘80s records. Farm was noteworthy for signaling that the band’s comeback was no one-off, but also—single “Over It” aside—for delving back into some of the heavier, murkier sounds and textures the band was originally known for. 2012’s I Bet on Sky split the difference and featured for the first time a strong(er) presence of keyboards, including Mellotron on soaring opener “Don’t Pretend You Didn’t Know.”
Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not hews close to Beyond, albeit with an effort to slim things down*. *On the charging opener “Goin Down,” a second of amp hum hangs in the air before the song kicks off, and what follows is archetypal “new” Dinosaur Jr.: chugging, crunching-but-hummable and with a nice bow-tying solo. The even catchier “Tiny” drills it down further, at only 3:12 lasting not a second longer than it needs to.
Better still is the beautiful, floating “Lost All Day,” which connotes a feeling of exactly that; when Mascis’ solo comes in midway, it almost feels like it might swallow the song whole. Though the song never really goes anywhere, it has a sense of circular renewal that lends itself to a moment of mania where you might put the song on repeat and just let it run over and over.
Give a Glimpse does, however, stick largely to well-trod paths, with not a ton in the way of experimentation. As always, it’s Mascis’ guitar that is the main attraction here, the reason for caring. “I Walk for Miles,” the album’s longest cut, begins as a bit of a “been here before” grunge before giving way into a dark, feedback-drenched solo that lasts for a minute before breaking down and restarting all over again, almost never seeming to end. “I Told Everyone” starts off as nothing too special, a toned down version of “Lost All Days’” forlorn, but features yet another excellent Mascis solo worth holding onto.
Interestingly, the one wildcard is that Barlow’s two penciled-in tracks on Give a Glimpse appear to be better and more serious than any of his six preceding tracks on the first three comeback records. While one can appreciate the democratic concession of including Barlow-penned songs on Dinosaur Jr. records, it’s always been his unique bass-playing style, and not his songwriting, that made the band better.
Most of the previous six Barlow cuts had felt like dashed-off throwaways, like the interludes that typically fill in space on Sebadoh albums (the same goes his ‘80s contributions). But on Give a Glimpse, with “Love Is…” and album closer “Left/Right,” it seems like Barlow is finally comfortable sounding like himself on a Dinosaur Jr. record. The duh-duh-duh-dum opening bass line of “Left/Right” especially could drop on *Bakesale or Harmacy. *Fans can cross their fingers hoping it portends Barlow’s deeper integration into the songwriting, but it could just as easily mean the man’s itching to get out again. -Pitchfork