Dinosaur Jr. – Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not

Alright, it’s pretty much a given that J Mascis is Dinosaur Jr., right? He’s the singer – well, 90% of the time. He’s the guitarist. He’s the songwriter. And he’s the King of The Band, a Machiavellian mind-fucker if ever there were one. (Read the Dinosaur Jr. chapter of Michael Azerrad’s excellent Our Band Could Be Your Life for documentation of the Machiavellian mind-fucker thing.)

And let’s face it: The other original members of Dinosaur Jr. really weren’t that great on their own. I mean, Lou Barlow’s post-Dinosaur Jr. project, Sebadoh, was pleasantly inoffensive in a sleepy, R.E.M. kinda way I guess. And Murph (the drummer), well, he never did much of anything else musically on his own. And honestly, his playing in Dinosaur Jr.. is, well, it’s competent.

This is to say that any Dinosaur Jr. album is, for all intents and purposes, a J Mascis album. Likewise, the bulk of Mascis’ other projects (such as J Mascis and The Fog) sound pretty much like Dinosaur Jr. I mean, well, how could they not? Dinosaur Jr.. is J Mascis – and Mascis can’t really quit himself.

Still, we seek the known. We are comforted by original lineups and familiar monikers. So, even though J Mascis couldn’t quit himself in the ’90s and early oughts, it was still a big deal when Dinosaur Jr. reconvened with all of the “classic” lineup intact in 2006. And I suppose burying the proverbial hatchet was a fortuitous, happy accident that drew big(ger) crowds for Mascis. So even though Mascis is/was the band, he had to bring “the b(r)and” back together to bring back the big(ger) crowds and reap some extra scratch. But as of now, Dinosaur Jr. Mach II has lasted longer than the original, “classic” incarnation did the first time around. I don’t begrudge Mascis or the other guys being able to make an honest living. Hey, a job’s a job. Sometimes, in order to succeed, compromises and concessions are made. And playing in a popular b(r)and beats working, right? Well, probably.

Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not is the fourth and (so far) best post-reformation effort from Dinosaur Jr., which is saying a lot. Mascis was among the best guitarists of the late ’80s post-hardcore/proto-grunge era. What makes Mascis different from his late ’80s contemporaries (Greg Ginn, Kim Thayill, Thurston Moore et al) is that he continues his boundary stretching playing in the present. Granted, his songwriting formula (wistful, country-fried psychedelia + adenoidal, lackadaisical vocals + distortion + truly great guitar solos = X, or something) has never varied to speak of. But for some reason, well, the new album just has a bit more spark.

Give a Glimpse starts off strong with “Goin’ Down,” a track that delivers above formula with verve and panache. The second track, “Tiny,” is the album’s apex – as it should be: The first song should draw the listener in, and the second track should be the best track, the one that sinks the hook in deep. “Tiny” is a bit more in the pop realm than usual for Dinosaur Jr.., meaning that it’s simple and sing-songy, in the best kind of a way. It’s almost as if Mascis is actually happy about something other than sleeping and getting (or staying) stoned. After that, the album is just a matter of delivering the slightest formulaic variations, punctuated by punctum bursting solos. And that’s exactly what we want.

So there’s gotta be a glitch, right? Yes, Gladys, there is a glitch. And that glitch is named Lou Barlow.

Sorry, but the two Barlow tracks (“Love Is” and “Left/Right”) are much like Sebadoh, which is to say that they’re pleasantly inoffensive in a sleepy R.E.M. kinda way I guess. Allowing two Barlow tracks on the album was, I suppose, the concessions and compromises Mascis had to make to keep “the b(r)and” together and keep reaping some extra scratch. And being in a popular b(r)and beats working, right? Well, probably.

Dinosaur Jr.
Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not