Album: I Bet on Sky
Record Label: Jagjaguwar
For longtime fans, new Dinosaur Jr. albums must be as soothing and reliable as the billion-times laundered rock shirts from the nineties that still hang in their closets. For a relatively new appreciator of what Barlow and Mascis are capable of, the music still has a built-in nostalgic kick, simply in the way it is written, produced, and played. This is a kind of rock that’s not quite like the kind that exists today—but that doesn’t make the songs on I Bet on the Sky nostalgic throwback novelties.
First single and first track “Watch the Corners” establishes the album as one of contrasts: Mascis rasps a an admirably relaxed and gentle melody line over cuttingly-strummed guitars and punchy snares, creating a very adult version of angst. The guitar solos—oh yes, the guitar solos—are not as subtle, not quite as “matured,” but that’s fine. Mascis has been given a free pass from accusations of wankery, due to his godfather status in the independent music world, but he really does come close to the excesses of metal soloing in the sheer length of some of his freeform guitar explosions. I wouldn’t dream of complaining, though; thing is, he’s just really good at the guitar, and if there is a strong constant on all of D. Jr’s albums, it’s those potent moments that are all about the relationship J. has with his guitar.
Admittedly, the rest of the album doesn’t quite reach the peaks of “Corners,” but it’s hard to isolate a disappointing track on this very solid piece of work, the third post-breakup album from a band that we’re lucky to still have with us.