Sound: Dinosaur Jr. released their first album, "Dinosaur", in 1985 without much reaction from the musical community, but it did showcase their original style. Their style showcased elements of heavy punk, which was fairly popular at the time, but also elements of classical rock and heavier use of distortion and feedback and the unique vocal delivery of Joe Mascis (compared a lot at the time to Neil Young). While going mostly unnoticed, they did catch the interest of Sonic Youth who caught a few of Dinosaur Jr.'s live shows and subsequently invited Dinosaur Jr. to open for them on several tour dates in 1986. In 1987 the band released "You'Re Living All Over Me", which was much more successful than "Dinosaur" and helped to showcase them as an important band in the indie rock community of the time. Despite numerous conflicts between the members, Dinosaur Jr. went on to release 5 more albums over the next decade. There were lineup changes until Mascis was the only original member left, and he "retired" the Dinosaur Jr. name in 1997. The original members pursued their solo careers and occasional slung mud at each other at their shows and during interviews. Finally, in 2005 the original members managed to reconcile and the first new album in a decade was released under the name Dinosaur Jr.
"I Bet On Sky" is the third album released since Dinosaur Jr. re-formed in 2005, and it does show that the energy and creativity that made them a success in the first place is still there. There are 10 tracks on the album, with a runtime of just under 47 minutes. While Mascis is and has been the main creative force in Dinosaur Jr. since the beginning, the smaller contributions by Murph and Lou Barlow do a fine job of sculpting the end product into the sound and style that fans have come to associate with Dinosaur Jr. Dinosaur Jr. was one of the original bands to use the quiet-loud dynamic in their music, which was popularized in large part later by Nirvana, and Dinosaur Jr. continues to use it now. The songs on "I Bet On Sky" defy categorization neatly into a genre, as they at times sound like grunge, indie, classic rock, pop punk and noise pop. The recording used on the album gives it an almost "live" feel when listening, much like the albums released by Dinosaur Jr. in the 90's. While there isn't a track on the album that replaces my favorite Dinosaur Jr. song, "Feel The Pain", the album as a whole is very worthwhile and in subsequent listens I've grown more and more fond of it as a whole. // 9
Lyrics: Joe Mascis has not changed much in his vocal delivery since the early days of Dinosaur Jr., with a distinctive slightly nasal falsetto that has become his trademark as a vocalist. One of the biggest things I look for as far as vocal performances is that there is a distinctive voice singing with character and not just a pitch perfect generic voice (some of my favorite vocalists are Isaac Brock from Modest Mouse and Dave Mustaine from Megadeth). Joe Mascis delivers nicely by giving his normal distinctive vocal delivery. I have no complaints to make in regards to the vocals.
Joe Mascis has been known for writing very personal lyrics and then singing them in a way that is laid back to the point of being almost detached. The lyrics from "I Bet On Sky" continue to be very personal lyrics. I'm not going to attempt to transcribe very much of the lyrics, but a few phrases I liked are following. From the song "Rude", the song starts out as "I am here to curse my own tongue again", then in the chorus "Cause you are young and we don't share a soul and nothing I could say would gain control". And last, I tried to transcribe some lyrics from "Don't Pretend You Didn't Know", but I'm not very confident that I got it right. I'll share it anyway: "Waiting all the time/ all the people/ all the time/ waiting as a group/ don't pretend you didn't know/ I know that there is no end/ I know I seen you again/ waiting all my life/ all the people/ think in rhyme". Yeah, so lyrics are great despite my failure to transcribe them properly. // 8
Overall Impression: I'm glad to see a new release by Dinosaur Jr., and after listening I wasn't disappointed. My favorite songs on the album would have to be "See It On Your Side", "Don't Pretend You Didn't Know" and "Watch The Corners". There weren't any songs on the album I could say that I disliked. Overall, the album is a great release by Dinosaur Jr. and is a good purchase if you are a Dinosaur Jr. fan, or if you are just now hearing of them. You have to wrap your head around Dinosaur Jr. was one of the earliest bands that began popularizing pop punk, quiet-loud dynamics and what would eventually become grunge music. The song writing is impeccable, the mixing is interesting and it is just a good album overall. // 8
- Brandon East (c) 2012