Dinosaur Jr were always too introverted to shout about it, but their first three albums – breakthrough single ‘Freak Scene’ especially – turned just as many Brits on to American indie rock as their more famous contemporaries Sonic Youth and Pixies did. After years of acrimony, the original trio of guitarist J Mascis, bassist Lou Barlow and drummer Murph reformed in 2005 to enjoy a career tail that’s turning out to be longer than a diplodocus’s.
‘Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not’ is Dinosaur Jr’s fourth reunion album, 11th in all, and finds the band returning to its amp-buzzing basics, following the mix of piano and keyboard on 2012 predecessor ‘I Bet On Sky’. Rich organ chords add colour to the gentle choruses of ‘Be A Part’ but a crackling power trio sound dominates, with Barlow’s melodic, thick basslines holding their own against Mascis’s blistering guitar.
Rapid opening tracks ‘Goin Down’ and ‘Tiny’ are energetic bolts of molten fuzz-pop, close cousins to classic Dinosaur Jr singles like ‘The Wagon’ and ‘Feel The Pain’. Mascis’s lyrics are as downbeat as ever (“Are you with me when I’m gone?” asks the former, “I’m all alone” laments the latter), his introspective drawl countered by the effortlessness of his solos, pouring out his soul in a wriggling liberal mass of silver and gold.
Following the welcome break of ‘Love Is…’, the first of two stirring Barlow tracks worthy of his other band Sebadoh’s finest moments, the record’s second half sinks under the weight of Mascis’s anguish. ‘I Walk For Miles’ is a tiring Black Sabbath plod under heavy, grey skies. By the time we get to the weary shimmer of ‘Mirror’ (“I’ve been crawling around since I met you”), he’s on his knees.
It’s left to Barlow’s ‘Left/Right’ to finish ‘Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not’ on a peak, a clear-headed confessional (“You broke me down / Spoke to my heart”) with drums and bassline given space to breathe around Mascis’s descending arcs of guitar fire. Despite its dips, there are plenty of strong reasons here to keep Dinosaur Jr from extinction