Wednesday, September 19, 2012

ALBUM REVIEW: Dinosaur Jr. - I Bet on Sky

by Mark Gillis

Bands aren’t supposed to be good when they reunite after a long hiatus. They’re supposed to be shadows of their former selves and tour around playing all the hits people know and love. If they do record new music, it isn’t supposed to be as good as albums they did in the past. In short, reunions are supposed to be high on hype but short on delivery. Nobody tell that to Dinosaur Jr.

Now what I just said in the first paragraph is probably something that you’ll find in every single review of this album. While it’s cliche, it’s also true that Dinosaur Jr. bucked the trend of normally subpar band reunions when they decide to reunite the original lineup J Mascis, Murph and Lou Barlow in 2005. The three of them basically picked up right where they left off in the late 80’s with the solid 2007 release of Beyond. The came 2009’s Farm, which is the album I consider to be their magnum opus. Farm’s mopey and melodic guitar tones from J Mascis would probably make even the most emotionless person feel something inside.

Now we arrive at I Bet On Sky, the band’s third studio album since their reunion, and to be honest I’m a bit disappointed with it. I still think it’s a good album but it doesn’t do nearly enough to blow me away like Farm did.

The first track “Don’t Pretend You Didn’t Know” has a problem that plagues a few other tracks on this album, like “Almost Fare”. Basically the entire song aside from the chorus and the solo is just one short riff repeated over and over again. The chorus and guitar solo in each of these songs do enough to save them from being too monotonous, but I would have prefered to hear a bit more variation.

Sandwiched in between the two tracks mentioned above was the first single to drop from I Bet On Sky, “Watch The Corners”. It’s funny how bands seem to be able to release the best songs the their albums as singles before the album drops because that’s exactly what Dinosaur Jr. did with “Watch The Corners”. The chugging riff and J’s croaky voice go hand in hand, and the ending solo is one of the best on the album.

The next track, “Stick A Toe In” is a mopey track that would probably fit well on Farm. It’s after this that things get weird with the Lou Barlow lead “Rude”. Dinosaur Jr. have always had some country sounding undertones to their music, but those undertones are brought to the forefront on “Rude”. It’s not that this is a bad track at all, it just sticks out like a sore thumb because of how different it is and I feel like it kind of disrupts the flow of the album.

The next interesting moment on I Bet On Sky is the track “Pierce The Morning Rain” which is an all out assault of a punk jam. It sort of harkens back to a track like “Raisans” from Dinosaur Jr.’s 1987 album You’re Living All Over Me. It’s definitely a song that sticks out on the album without disrupting the flow like I feel “Rude” did.

I Bet On Sky then has what I feel is it’s most melodic moment with “What Was That”. I absolutely love the chorus on this track. It’s one of the reasons that I came to love Dinosaur Jr. so much in the first place. I think the way they contrast melodic choruses with more rock oriented verses is, and always has been, a huge selling point for me.

So, while I don’t think that this is DInosaur Jr.’s best album by a longshot, it’s still good, and good by Dinosaur Jr. standards is pretty darn great by the standards of most other bands. It’s just nice to see a more mature DInosaur Jr. thriving like they did in the 80’s. It’s even better that all three members look like they're having a ton of fun doing it. They’re proving that age doesn’t have to affect your ability write kickass, to the point rock songs and I hope they don’t stop anytime soon.

Score: Decent to Strong 7

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