It’s been over a decade since Dinosaur Jr ended their absence from the world, and it had been even longer since the original trio of J Mascis, Lou Barlow, and Murph had been together as one unstoppable beast. From 1985 to 1990 they gained a lot of steam around the independent rock scene with three albums, but then a variety of tensions and creative differences led Mascis to force Barlow out, where he immediately went on to form Sebadoh and The Folk Implosion. The guys were still in their early-mid twenties at the time, so a lot of this could be assumed as some chest thumping immaturity that led to the demise. Dino would go on to a major label for a string of albums in the 90s, and although they would never be without that signature Mascis riff and sound, there was always that longing (at least for me) for that original trio alignment. Murph left the band in 1993, and in 1997 Mascis hung up Dinosaur Jr for what seemed like an official end. That was a significant time frame for me, because I was just starting to get very interested in all types of music as a fresh teenager in ’97, and I wouldn’t be able to experience any new music from what I consider to be one of the greatest rock bands of all-time during these key years.
I did, however, find all of their discography from the early days at a key time in my teenage years, and the band became very important to me and has not relinquished their place atop a certain pedestal since. In fact, things only got tighter and more powerful since they reformed in 2005 with Mascis, Lou & Murph. On 2007’s Beyond, they came back sounding as fresh as ever, and it was assumed that it may have been a one-and-done type of reunion, but looking back now it served as nothing less than a thundering statement from a band out to prove that they are one of the most resilient, hard-hitting groups in the world. They’ve put together four albums since the now legendary reunion, and in my opinion it is their latest, Give A Glimpse of What Yer Not, that is the crowning achievement on top of a massively influential catalog.
What makes this string of songs stand out from the other excellent releases over the last decade from the band, is the fact that Barlow finally seems comfortable in his own skin and worthy of contributing two solid tracks to a Dino record. It’s not that he has never contributed good work to one of their albums, but it always had a semi-disconnected feel to the monstrous work of Mascis, who is an icon in the rock guitarist world. “Love Is…” and “Left/Right”, Barlow’s two cuts, this time around, are undoubtedly his best ever in the Dino canon. They feel like they stack up and belong, and that helps make Glimpse the near-masterwork that it is…because once again, Mascis is on fire. One of the most prolific and impressive guitarists on any corner of the universe, the now 50 year-old musician sounds as relentless and young as ever before, and lyrically he excels on the record, too. A three song stretch late on the record (“I Walk For Miles”, “Lost All Day”, and the incredible “Knocked Around”) are arguably his greatest 15 minutes of his entire career.
There are some bands that become bland when they continue to stick with the same sonic path throughout their career. This is not the case with Dinosaur Jr. They have never needed to reinvent themselves or their sound. They have only ever needed to simply be a rock band, and they are doing it better than anyone I can think of at the moment. Make no mistake about it; when you listen to a Dinosaur Jr album, you are experiencing a clinic being conducted. This is purely a brilliant rock record, and for that I cannot see giving it anything but a flawless rating.