If there was any question J Mascis and Dinosaur Jr. would lose any stride after reconstituting a decade ago, they come bearing a loud, insistent answer with “Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not,” the grunge-rock giants’ new album.
Still chugging and crunching and drenched in guitar feedback like classics “Feel the Pain” and “Freak Scene” before them, the songs on Dinosaur’s 11th record stick to well-trodden paths in the band’s output. The hallmarks are all there, as unstoppable as Mascis’ forever gray, Dumbledore-like hair: the frontman’s lazy, world-weary drawl, the pained gloom of discarded friends and lost loves, and the guitar solos so scorching they could sear steaks. It’s a noisy, brash formula that has worked for Mascis, bassist-singer Lou Barlow and drummer Murph for 33 years, and it’s one that continues with the album’s opener “Goin’ Down,” which roars to life with whining feedback and ends the same way.
Reformed ‘80s bands rarely work and endure this long, and this original trio could’ve lost their sludgy edge in the four albums since Mascis buried the hatchet with his bandmates in 2005. (He had an infamous falling out with Barlow in 1989 and, if recent interviews are to be believed, still rarely speaks to him on tour.) But Dinosaur Jr., since 2005’s “Beyond,” has found unity in the discord. The Barlow-written single “Love Is…” is a sublime showcase for the sometimes Sebadoh frontman’s vocals, and the despairing lyrics form a counterpoint to the fuzzy, tempestuous guitar that swirls around them. Mascis, of course, holds his own, especially with the prickly “I Walk For Miles,” a blaze of hair metal-like riffs paired with the singer’s rapsy wails of tired loneliness. Another standout is “Mirror,” yet another song about pining brokenheartedness and being socially inept, two attributes that are the bread and butter of many Mascis-written tracks.
Dinosaur Jr. rarely tinkers with the fuzzy noise that distinguishes its newer albums. Not that they should: Recent setlists lean heavily on “Give a Glimpse,” whose tracks are sandwiched between the best Dinosaur droppings (“Start Choppin’,” “The Lung”). Not much has changed sonically for the band these last three decades, and Mascis certainly aims to keep it that way.
Dinosaur Jr. will perform 8pm March 29 at the Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Highway, in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets are $25. Call 954-564-1074 or go to CultureRoom.net.
~ Phillip Valys