Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Leaky Pipes: A First Look at Dinosaur Jr.'s I Bet on Sky

When you see Dinosaur Jr. is releasing another album, their tenth, you know what to expect going in: J Mascis's slurry ennui, ripping solos, solid musicianship, and a good listen - this is exactly what I Bet on Sky amounts to. The album is concrete, nothing special, nothing that will top a year end list, nothing that will change how you think about the indie rock stalwarts.

I Bet on Sky does have its highlights, obviously, but they never shine bright enough to lift the entire effort above average. "Watch the Corners", the album's first single, is a great romping track -- the video is equally awesome, having been produced by Funny or Die and featuring Tim Heidecker as an angry dad -- but nothing feels new about it.

Referencing Farm, Dinosaur's 2009 effort, I noticed it had a little pep and energy to it, with songs like "I Want You to Know" and "There's No Here", but it also had lazy balancing songs "Said the People" and "Plans" that built and undulated. I Bet on Sky seems to have J, Lou, and Murph's half-attention; no one really steps out. Sure, there are some added keyboards in songs and Lou sings lead a few times, but nothing reinvents the wheel here.

Assuring the exercise is not entirely wasted -- and that I finish my compliment sandwich -- "Almost Fare" adds some extra country instrumentation and provides an entertaining listen; it's a fun song that would fit perfectly into a spring into summer playlist. Album highlight "What Was That" starts with a usual Mascis epic guitar riff, but then tumbles into a hefty Lou Barlow bass jam, finally finishing with the band implementing some attack and release, much like what can be found on You're Living All Over Me. "See it on Your Side" is an excellent closer, as it makes everything before it seem like it was just the legendary band stretching before a big finish; I guess it's always important to go out big.

So as we near the 25th anniversary of You're Living All Over Me, we find a band still playing together, since reuniting in 2005, and sometimes trying new things. But when I first listened through I Bet on Sky, I found myself trying to find just what exactly makes Dinosaur Jr. so important, often reviewing their older material, and getting caught up, forgetting to reference forward to I Bet on Sky; all of this created a really disorientating process -- I think I'll go listen to Bug and You're Living All Over Me.

Final Grade: C+

P.S. You can check out the album, streaming in its entirety, over at NPR.


  1. It sucks that they're stuck in this lazy, uninspired rut. I was really looking forward to this album.

    1. Yeah, but there are some select tracks that can help you sell the band to new listeners, which is always a plus. I didn't want to deter any listens - you should still give it at least one listen.

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