Dinosaur Jr.’s Greatest Reunion Album Revisited


Dinosaur Jr. Vintage Album Review

Dinosaur Jr. came back in 2016 with their release Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not. Here’s a track by track review of their album that was released August 5th.


The leadoff track of Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not propels us into everything that makes Dinosaur Jr. still relevant in today’s rock scene. The metal tipped alt. rock that made them influential in the 1980’s has rarely dipped in terms of providing electric storms of fury. Here, Murph pounds incessantly underneath stellar J. Mascis’ charging buzzsaw riffs that contract and expand on demand-the tone latches onto straight metal underneath the vocal, but the music opens up on the instrumental sections that intertwine. The winding classic rock solo wouldn’t sound out of place in any era, feeling at home here amongst the metal rhythms. The “are you with me?” chorus feels like the simple message of the song, but the surroundings are complex and layered, providing the proper insulation to make the message feel meaningful.


The leadoff single for the album, ‘Tiny’ provides some of the best rock this side of ‘Start Choppin’; it’s pure melodic hard rock bliss, using a bit of the light and shade technique between verse and refrain to keep the emotional tones balanced. The “I wanna know/I wanna go” part-direct, catchy and simple, highly addictive and this feels radio ready in the best way. So far the album is very strong just like the great opening tracks found on their previous long player I Bet on Sky. J. Mascis has a hard time presenting a crap solo because he seems to have the magic touch on almost all of his soloing. Have a fire extinguisher handy when Barlow and Murph clear the way for that fiery guitar. Here, this magnificent guitarist provides more emotional strength to the song on the break, while remaining melodic and logically linked to the song’s melody. Again, one of Mascis’ best traits is to let the solo continue through the following verse and here it works better than ever.


This heartwarming plea to a loved one has the theme of uncomfortable relationships-a concern that pervades the album, as J. Mascis suffers to the conclusion that begging is the only way. The band keeps it straightforward here, never rocking too hard, but instead providing a beautiful backing with the most resonant Mascis vocal on the release. “Come on, it’s time to tell me when…brokenhearted” reveals the desperation and depression evident here. J. is backed by a great falsetto Barlow vocal on the memorable chorus, and this is another cut containing a lyrical solo that stretches the imagination while painting with an emotion palette.


Some great chord changes are to be found on another track that is well written and continues the high musical level of the album. J. Mascis solos like the guitar is continuing to sing the song, crying, wailing and whining as it weaves further emotion into the song’s tapestry. His notes emote whether it is on the ringing tones or thrashing riffs. While it doesn’t quite match the first 3 tracks here, it’s still a solid rocker.


The lightest song on the album is practically effective folk-pop, with Barlow leading the way with a delicate vocal that tries to provide a silver lining amidst J. Mascis’ dark clouds. The song sounds like a throwback to the classic rock era and flows better than Dinosaur Jr.’s best softer tracks. While the diversion serves to break up the album’s basic sound, it doesn’t quite fit in and feels like new ground for Dinosaur Jr. It’s a bit of catalog curiosity, almost sounding like another band.


Speedy rhythms and urgent cries for help from a man who is “crawling out the window through the floor” push this blazing track that blooms blistering guitar riffs over a fast paced Barlow/Murph foundation to the brink. Macsis sings like a man on fire as he continues to search for happiness in a dark jungle of feelings that he has trouble identifying. There are some tremendous rhythm guitar effects here and of course the lead playing leaps out of the speakers like a panther attacking.


The great songs are in abundance on this album. This one feels more grandiose due to its length and Barlow’s booming bass thumping alongside Murph’s canvas blows. The cataclysmic rhythm fuzz guitar riffs just grow more gigantic swallowing everything for miles as they stomp around, while the lead guitar torches the leftover wasteland. Your ears may be charred after this barnburner concludes. Mascis’ wailing, wrenching vocal cries seemingly come from a dead man walking a journey for miles through hell. The sonic walls are particular thick and massive, towering over their contemporaries’ attempts at anthemic metal.


Dinosaur Jr. tones down the drama, and brings an uplifting and positive melody to a set of slightly sad ‘you and me’ lyrics. It’s airier than much of the album, feeling a bit like ‘Tiny’, and the energy picks up on the long coda with soloing that feels logical in continuing the song’s emotions. The guitar seems to emote as much as the Neil Young-soft drawling croon of a J. Mascis vocal.  The catchy riff shows that Dinosaur Jr.’s well never dries.


Mascis is in full falsetto, on a slower, almost wistful song. The line ‘can you see me through, try and I can’t get to you’, explains the sentiment, though it breezes along with chiming guitars like it’s a love song. Spoiler alert-it’s a fake soft song-once it hits 2:40, it lunges full throttle into a thundering blast of frentic band interplay, off of J. Mascis’ longing, lonely croon “yes I’m lonely, yes I miss you”-nothing out of the ordinary, but the thrash of the band pumps up the emotion is those simple phrases. With the gas pedal to the floor, Dinosaur Jr. thrash abrasively, slashing those in their path until the dark jungle around them has been tamed.


Another song centered around a relationship gone bad; the music reveals a broken man lost in the forest-seems like these feelings are replicated on the eerie neon forest album cover.   The guitars bend notes like the winds bend leaves, naturally and effortlessly, while the rhythm section is as sturdy as the trees that surround. This haunting atmosphere almost fully created by J. Mascis guitar wails and vocal wails of ‘waste of time’ stir the album in a different direction and open up the possibilities.


Lou Barlow is spotlighted one more time on the light album closer ‘Left/Right’, a strong song that seems like a lost Collective Soul track but with a tone that matches the haunting quality found in ‘Mirror’.   Barlow has a great resonant voice, especially on the soaring chorus. His vocal neither contrasts nor matches J. Mascis in sound type, but really acts as a great compliment to J. Mascis’ vocal resonance. Barlow’s songs usually have less bone crushing rock like on his I Bet On Sky contributions ‘Rude’ and ‘Recognition’.  _________________________________________________________



Since their reunion almost 18 years ago with the release of Beyond, Dinosaur Jr. continue their metallic road through a great collection of melodic alt. rock that proves they are still one of the best hard rock bands in the industry. J. Mascis’ songwriting remains high quality and instrumentally, the chemistry here can’t be beat. Barlow and Murph can provide a rhythmic vehicle for any wild ride Mascis’ stellar guitar goes on. Sometimes those rides are fiery, aggressive riffs that scorch their metallic road leaving it in flames. Sometimes, it’s searing soloing that melts that road with intense emotion. While Barlow’s contributions don’t quite gel with Mascis’ sonically, they provide a break from Mascis’ voice, which usually keeps to a similar drawl along each track. The album cover is a hint as many of the lyrics feel like they come from a confused man lost in a forest of emotions. Overall, it’s a great rock album.

Rating: (4/5)