If the release of Solo Extractions, a compilation of all the guitar solos from their new album, didn’t have you waiting the release of Dinosaur Jr.’s new album; Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not, with baited breath, then the first single ‘Tiny’ surely will have done. A swirl of distorted pop hooks and fuzz drenched guitar sounds that are instantly recognisable as being the group’s own, with an accompanying video which saw J. Mascis having a skate at his local with dog in tow. This is what I would be spending my evening doing, sans dog, but the godawful weather has decided otherwise. The album is definitely softening the blow of being stuck indoors, nursing a hangover with a few more cold ones; fans can rest assured that the rest of it matches up to the early hype.
The fourth album since their 2005 reunion continues the streak of excellence which has run through all of them, a benchmark against which all those artists reforming to strictly play old hits and put on one-album tours should undoubtedly measure themselves. Opener ‘Going Down’ and the already discussed ‘Tiny’ are two of the most up-tempo of what is on the whole a fairly mellow album, with emphasis definitely on the quiet end of Dinosaur Jr.’s patented loud/quiet dichotomy. The crisp guitar riff which kick starts ‘Goin Down’ and the album as a whole offers a melody perfect for Mascis’ drawled, droned vocals to ooze across the track like molasses. The following single, meanwhile, is the perfect microcosm of the band’s love of 60s pop music – Beach Boys style harmonies would not sound out of place. ‘Be A Part’ follows on, reaching almost shoegaze levels with its combination of jangling guitar riff and mellow pace; this would be (and is) much more soothing on a hangover than, say, the majority of Bug or You’re Living All Over Me. ‘I Told Everyone’ continues at a similar cadence, part of an introspective lean to the whole album definitely lacking in their first three releases with the OG line up and even going beyond that of the post Lou Barlow and Murph output.
While musical mellowing is normally something I would normally rail against at any opportunity, a band like Dinosaur Jr. who draw in so many musical styles into a cohesive whole can definitely make it work; making the work as a whole feels more like a maturation than a betrayal of their roots. Indeed in the following track ‘Love Is…’, a garage-psych influence melds fluidly into something resembling a traditional folk number with added distortion, before bringing in just as seamlessly the J. Mascis' guitar squeal which runs like a rich seam through so many of their songs. ‘Good to Know’ picks up the pace and would sound at home tucked away in any era of the band’s back catalogue, a sure fire live favourite if ever I heard one, while ‘I Walk For Miles’ brings to the fore a NWOBHM influence in its chugging guitar sound. If this all sounds too musically dense, then you clearly haven’t been paying attention…Dinosaur Jr.’s genre bending soundscapes have only grown smoother as the years go on, and Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not is the next logical continuation of that sound.
The noise levels pull back for the last four tracks, with ‘Lost All Day’ a particularly evocative slice of sun-drenched fuzz-laden pop which sets the groundwork perfectly. ‘Knocked Around’ would not sound out of place as part of Barlow’s Sebadoh, and ‘Mirror’ and ‘Left/Right’ continue to explore the possibilities of a quieter Dinosaur Jr. The rising and falling soundscape of ‘Left/Right’, with squealing guitars and finger picked melodies rising alternately out of the gloom, show just how adeptly the band can handle this exploration. Roll on the next record, and maybe even a UK tour if we’re lucky…