While not the most financially lucrative reunion act of the last decade one could argue that Dinosaur Jr. has been the most artistically satisfying regrouping in decades. Finding another band who could release multiple albums that are on par with their “classic” early work is rare; albums that better then the originals? Virtually impossible, but with Beyond, Farm and now I Bet On Sky, Dinosaur Jr. has perhaps matched their initial famous trio of Dinosaur, You’re Living All Over Me and Bug.
J Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph’s formula has not changed (barrel tight low-end, mumble a bit, cue supersonic guitar solos, rinse and repeat) but the overall “slacker” vibe has matured into a nervous, melancholy worry that adds depth to the songs and in particular the lyrics. Never one to fully flush out his singing (or even annunciate) Mascis adds a level of parental midlife caring and fear evident on the first single “Watch The Corners” (the video starring Tim Heidecker is wonderful). The song doesn’t shy away from Dinosaur’s strength, riffs are as fuzzy as ever but age has caught up to the trio and it suites them perfectly.
The surprise found within this album is the inclusion of pianos which can be spotted immediately behind the meaty wails of the opening “Don’t Pretend You Didn’t Know”. The twinkling “Almost Fare” contains a strutting upbeat vibe that sounds…umm…pretty, this before getting funky with wah-wah and drum breaks on “I Know It Oh So Well”. Barlow’s bass distorts the scenario on “Stick A Toe In” but when the sound drops out there is that jittery piano plunking around again adding extra layers to the sound.
“Pierce The Morning Rain” screams for a moshpit with it’s “Sonic Reducer” energy. Barlow’s punkish “Rude” and off-kilter pop of “Recognition” both twist up the formula showing real collaboration and a sense of Sebadoh entering the Dino Jr world. Ending the album with the majestic Crazy Horse inspired “See It On Your Side” proves the band is just as powerful as ever.
I Bet On Sky won’t reach new markets or convert the masses to the church of feedback and thunder, but it isn’t trying to. It is just solidifying Dinosaur Jr as one of the best bands in America of any era.