Since they originated back in 1984, the Massachusetts-based trio Dinosaur Jr has made a household name for themselves in the melodic punk-rock scene as one of the heaviest hitters in the game. Not only did they lay down the kind of fat riffs that would eventually make J Mascis a long-haired luminary of six-stringed electric guitar gymnastics, they would eventually combine it with the sort of crunchy psychedelic clarity that the best of Neil Young & Crazy Horse’s material would certainly be able to appreciate.
And despite some tumultuous fallout over the years between guitarist/vocalist Mascis, bassist/vocalist Lou Barlow and drummer Emmett Murphy (“Murph” for short), the trio once again found themselves blossoming after reuniting in 2005. Despite a 19-year hiatus between studio albums for the core members, 2009’s Beyond and it’s subsequent followups have led to strong reviews as well as highly positive opinions of these now rather grizzled music veterans.
Dinosaur’s 4th release back together (August 5th’s upcoming Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not) doesn’t exactly reach out and try to reinvent the wheel in order to buoy the band’s recently prolific state, but it doesn’t have to either. Rather, Mascis, Barlow and Murph heavily rely on their well-honed ability as a trio in order to give Glimpse all the punch and listenability that it could ever ask for.
The album is earmarked and chock full of many familiar Dinosaur Jr hallmarks: Mascis with his trademark vocal drawl and feast of hearty feedback-washed solos and hooks, Barlow adding rippling bass lines (as well as exceptional lead vocals on “Love Is” and closer “Left Right”), and Murph crushingly in command bringing the thunder behind the drumkit. Having the three back together and so clearly in sync is a pleasure to hear, as the songs on the record easily bristle and bounce with an ageless sting from the first hum of feedback all the way to the final closing notes.
Having Mascis and Barlow together is an especially tasty listening experience as the two continue to make an especially strong complementary pair to one another. Where Mascis wades through waves of dissonant feedback and listless weariness to his words, Barlow feels more content in an almost Nick Lowe-esque display of compact melody. Not that he can’t keep pace when the power chords have been laid down, but the two being on the same page feels like an especially pleasing sense of balance.
It seems to bring the best out of both musicians, and keeps Glimpse on a perfect edge that can thump with a heavy hand while still maintaining it’s honesty beneath the surface of the layers. I could see fans of earlier Dinosaur Jr records perhaps tuning out this return to the spotlight due to the lack of the lo-fi punk that was present on the band’s earlier work, but in my mind the current core iteration of what this band is doing is demonstrating so much of them at their best.
Glimpse shows that Dinosaur Jr is still maturing gracefully with a stronger studio style, still knows how to absolutely slay a mega ton of power punched industrial rock, and can still bring out the softer side of their well-tenured sound whenever the moment calls for it. Their deftly wound capability brings to mind former Husker Du lead man Bob Mould’s late season career resurgence, especially his trio of tightly constructed recent solo albums Silver Age, Beauty & Ruin and 2016’s Patch The Sky.
And while I don’t see Mould pleasantly reuniting with Grant Hart or Greg Norton for a Dinosaur Jr style reunion anytime soon, his chemistry with fellow Bob Mould Band members Jason Narducy and Jon Wurster is just as similarly dynamic. With that thought in mind, it comes as no shock that both Patch The Sky and Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not weigh in as two of the best and brightest in this year’s rock category.
Don’t sleep on the old guys ladies and gentleman. They still keep going out there and getting it done, all while incorporating plenty of face-melting jams along the way.
And really, could we ask them for anything more?