Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not, the 11th studio release by Dinosaur Jr. was well received by most music critics, scoring an average of 79% on Metacritic. So how does the album stack up according to Step On contributors Cory Zydyk and Jake Lehman? Hit or miss? Worth a damn?
Here’s what they had to say.
My first show at a 19+ venue was to see Dinosaur Jr. touring Bug front to back in its entirety. It was an absolutely epic show, both in the ear-splitting, juicy yet crunchy guitar tones that J Mascis manages to squeeze out of his Fender Jazzmaster, and in the amount of beers consumed that night.
Years after that show, Dinosaur Jr.’s latest release, Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not, still delivers the loud, ripping, pulsating wonderfulness that the Bug tour delivered. Dinosaur Jr. seems ageless. And even though Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not is not a radical reinvention of the band’s sound, it doesn’t matter. Over the years, Dinosaur Jr. have perfected a truly unique recipe that works and thrills album after album.
Give a Glimpse starts off rollicking, with two kick-ass head banger tracks. Both “Goin’ Down” and “Tiny” sound very punk, but Mascis’ signature nasally vocals take over the song, keeping things sugary sweet, and on “Tiny”, down-right fun.
The Lou Barlow penned tracks are no slouches on this album either. Barlow songs on the previous three reunion albums have seemed like weird interludes; not quite heavy enough and not quite poppy enough to fit in with the Mascis songs. They’ve been just a little too straightforward. But here on Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not, the Barlow tracks sound folky and very catchy, especially “Love Is…” which seems to be a meditation on getting older yet still dealing with the tumultuous gut-punch of emotions we feel when we lose love.
And here on the theme of love, is where Lou Barlow and J Mascis find a connection among what is a legendarily fractious relationship: Dinosaur Jr. has always sung about broken relationships, loneliness and alienation, and though they’re older, the members of Dinosaur Jr. don’t shy away from these experiences, or belittle them. If anything, age offers perspective and Mascis is consistently looking back on this album, most notably on “Knocked Around”, where he sings “I miss you all the time”, to the stand-out track “Be a Part” where Mascis pleads “come on and be a part of me” over a guitar riff that is juicier than biting into a peach.
In contrast, “I Walk for Miles” is the longest and heaviest tune on the record. It’s a hazy, grungy and very heavy song. It sounds like Mascis is digging his artistic needle into the same vein as his heavy metal side project, Witch. “I Walk for Miles” is so heavy that after a lengthy guitar solo, it implodes, pausing briefly, only to restart its dirty riff all over again. “I Walk for Miles” is the epicenter, the gravitational black hole of Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not. It’s fucking fantastic.
Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not is sad music for a sunny day. It’s fun and for the most part very catchy, but the magic of Dinosaur Jr. is that they manage to make some of the loudest introspective music around. From start to finish, Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not is Dinosaur Jr. showing that they still have it decades later.
Fair warning, I’m a massive fan of Dinosaur Jr. Anyone who knows me can attest to this. That said, I will try to give as unbiased a review as humanly possible. But no promises.
After months of speculation, hype, and teasers from notable friends of the band (Henry Rollins, Lee Renaldo and Screaming Females to name a few) the 11th Dinosaur Jr. album has been thrust upon us. And while on the surface it’s exactly what you’d expect, repeated listens have revealed a very complex late career album for the Massachusetts trio.
The album starts out with the one-two punch of lead singles “Goin Down” and “Tiny” that immediately get the blood pumping and the head bopping. These songs are Dinosaur Jr. at its finest; Lou’s driving bass, Murph’s heavy drumming, J’s big fuzzy riffs, ear peeling solos, and classic drawl. However, there’s something noticeably different about this album. From the little xylophone-like accents on “Goin Down” and later the subtle synths featured on the chorus and bridge of “Be A Part” it becomes clear that this record represents something slightly unique for the band. The synths were hinted at earlier this year, when bassist Lou Barlow mentioned he was trying to include them on the new album after using them on his most recent solo release, last year’s Brace The Wave. From the sounds of it, he was successful, and the album is better for it.
In light of this, it seems Barlow gave a fair amount of input this time around. His contributions to the album, the hooky ballad “Love Is…” and driving album closer “Left/Right”, carry a strong sense of maturity compared to previous output like the punkier “Rude” from 2012’s I Bet On Sky. Seeing such collaboration comes as a surprise after recent reports that J Mascis and Lou Barlow are still not on full speaking terms after the dissolution of the current line-up in 1989, which resulted in Lou being kicked out and J continuing with Murph (and later solo) until the band’s initial end in 1997. If that is the case, it doesn’t seem to stop them from having the same approach towards their music as the aforementioned maturity echoes throughout much of the album. With the exception of the singles and a couple of songs like “I Walk For Miles” (which I guarantee was the recycled Witch song Lou mentions in a recent Bandcamp Daily interview, the album is surprisingly mellow and upbeat (read poppy) compared to their previous efforts. This is a record made for long road trips, camping or just lounging in the summer sun (songs like “Lost All Day”, “Knocked Around” and the aforementioned Barlow tracks definitely stand out here). It’s not easy-listening by any means; the band does refer to themselves as ear-bleeding country after all, but definitely a little more relaxed than most of the bands earlier releases.
Is this their most experimental album? Yes and no. One could argue that 1997’s Hand it Over contained much less subtle delves into uncharted territory (the borderline obnoxious horns on “I’m Insane” and keyboards throughout most notably on “Never Bought It”). However, that album is seen by many to be closer to a J Mascis solo record, as he pretty much wrote and recorded most of it himself. The difference between Hand It Over and Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not is that the latter actually feels like a full band effort. The trio seems to be pushing not only their sound but each other, to make a polished, if somewhat poppy, album.
As fans, should we expect another You’re Living All Over Me or Bug? Of course not and after such solid output since 2007, why would you? As fans, we should not need nor want to. Artists are constantly evolving. Both Lou and J have taken great strides as artists independent of the core band; Lou’s evolution (after his initial departure) from nonsensical lo-fi recordings to one of the seminal slacker bands of the 90’s, Sebadoh, and J’s dip into acoustic folk in recent years. Listening to them taking risks together however, and within the core band, is a treat for longtime fans of J or Lou. The reunion of the band, no matter how shaky or unstable, has proven to be one of the greatest in rock history. This is a band that isn’t playing together again solely for the pay cheque, but to consistently make great rock music and push their legacy forward. And on this record in particular, they are pulling it off with aplomb.
Jake Lehman is an avid music junkie and guitarist in the Toronto-based Shoegaze/Noise band Tonemirror. Check them out HERE.