Dinosaur Jr.

I Bet On Sky
September 10, 2012

People never thought it would happen, but it did. When the original lineup of Dinosaur Jr. reformed in 2005, people thought a new album was off the cards. For fans, up until the announcement, it seemed ludicrous to expect Lou Barlow and J Mascis to be in the same room together, let alone making music.

But it happened.

Now, the original trio is releasing their third record since their reformation: I Bet on Sky.

And it flippin’ rocks.

There’s something distinctive about Dinosaur Jr. records, with tracks like Freak Scene and The Wagon going down in rock history, and this album isn’t without its share of hits.

This record has arguably the most powerful opening track Mascis has ever written. Don’t Pretend You Didn’t Know gives off the impression of an old band with a young essence. Dinosaur Jr. haven’t really aged at all. The track is a perfect fit amongst the modern alternative-indie rock releases. To say that this band are irrelevant is a gross miscalculation.

Mascis’ signature growl and melodic guitar tone are on full display throughout the record, which is filled with high gain and the majority of the world’s supply of fuzz. If there’s a fuzz shortage in the next couple of months, you’ll know who to blame. The guitar’s prominence in the mix would no doubt be due, in part, to J Mascis’ production of the record, which whilst controlled, isn’t over the top. The band still maintains a raw and fulfilling sound.

Almost Fare has a real groove about it. It’s structured in a manner which screams out ‘I AM DINOSAUR JR.’, that is to say there are layers upon layers of guitar lines. What really lifts the track is the addition of the acoustic guitar line, which, whilst barely audible, lifts the entire song and adds a sense of optimism to the timbre of this track.

It’s nice to see Mascis back to his old ways, after experimenting with his acoustic record Several Shades of Why last year. Whilst it proved to be a new side of his guitar virtuosity, a truly delicate sound, there’s just something so, so right about J Mascis tearing up an electric guitar.

The album slows its pace when it moves into Can I Stick a Toe In, which acts as a cry-out for companionship. Album centerpiece Rude, picks up the pace again. It comes in as one of the shorter tracks on the record, but showcases the band’s more accessible punk rock sound. Barlow’s voice on the track changes the essence of it, however, and I’m not sure if I like it as much. It could be my own obvious adoration of J Mascis skewing my perspective, but Barlow doesn’t seem to carry off the role of lead vocalist with as much aplomb, nor confidence, as Mascis does. It feels as though it is the least ‘Dinosaur Jr.-ish’ track on the album.

The album starts to draw to a close with rocking track Recognition, which once again features Barlow on lead vocals; however, it’s much more convincing this time around. Mascis backs him up with a rip-roaring guitar tone, and combined with Barlow’s driving bass tone, the track sets the record up for a big finish.

See It on Your Side is the closing ballad to the album. This slow-rocking track keeps the more subdued Dinosaur Jr. fans happy with an optimistic bridge that takes me back to my favourite track by the band Get Me.

In short, going into this album as a definite Dinosaur Jr. fan, I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. The original trio have proven themselves to be a solid outfit on their tenth release. Whilst they didn’t really try anything especially new, they didn’t need to. Dinosaur Jr. have solidified their place as a seminal rock band, and I get the impression that things are only going to keep getting better from here.