Sound — 8
"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" is an adage that fits perfectly for Dinosaur Jr., and after all the years of tension and animosity that unfurled the iconic noise rock trio in the initial stretch of their career, their reunion last decade has resulted in arguably their strongest years yet. With their comeback album, 2007's "Beyond," getting the band back in the saddle of their rough yet delicate alt-rock style, 2009's "Farm" brought it to a brand new high for Dinosaur Jr.'s catalog, chock full of memorable riffs and grandstanding solos. And hitting their landmark tenth album, "I Bet on Sky," just a few years ago, Dinosaur Jr. attempted to expand from their dependable base sound - from adding bits of synths and piano parts to the Lou Barlow-fronted post-punk song "Rude" - though it was a modest and not the most captivating of initiatives.
On their eleventh album, "Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not," Dinosaur Jr. continue their efforts to spread out from their home range sound without straining too hard, and the results come better this time around. Along with showing a more varied offering of songwriting gears (spanning from the driving energy of "Goin Down" and "Good to Know," to the howl-at-the-moon ballad of "Be a Part" and the timid wistfulness of "Left/Right"), the band also add some more splashes of color upon their sonic palette - a hint of bluesy riffing pops up in "Mirror," guitar distortion gets cranked up to stoner rock levels in "I Walk for Miles," and the acoustic guitars and Barlow's lead vocals in "Love Is..." evokes a strong R.E.M. vibe.
As expected, J Mascis' guitar performance is a force to be reckoned with, whether he's pulling off beefy riffs in "I Walk for Miles," intricately weaving guitar melodies in "Be a Part," or ripping an overdrive-fueled guitar solo in the faint-to-fleeting "Knocked Around." But a noticeable increase in Barlow's bassline presence gives the album a leg up on the previous few Dinosaur Jr. albums that continued to keep him behind in the mix. It was that previous instrumental hierarchy that was part of the reason Mascis and Barlow butted heads in the early Dinosaur Jr. years, but with "Give a Glimpse..." providing more room for Barlow to shine (heard in "Goin Down," "Love Is...," "I Walk for Miles," and most notably in "Lost All Day"), it not only asserts a stronger cooperation between him and Mascis, but simply shows how Barlow is a damn good bassist.
Lyrics — 8
There's no hard-lined concept to the lyrics in "Give a Glimpse...," but one can still see an emotional arc develop in Mascis' lyrics from front to back. In the beginning, his lyrics display a need to leave his home and loved ones for his own sake, coming off in a sense of self-empowerment in "Goin Down" ("I can't go back / And I'd hoped you'd understand"), but then slowly revealing itself to be a lonesome endeavor in "Tiny" ("I wanna know / I wanna go / I'm all alone"), and most vulnerably in "Be a Part" ("I'm broken hearted / I need to feel it breaking free"). Come the second half of the album, Mascis' lyrics depict him lost and bleeding time in his lonesome journey, only hoping that the connections he had to leave behind in the first place could bring him back to before, heard in "Good to Know" ("Time's wasting on all the people that's just getting over love / Sink your teeth into the essence of the wasteland I've become"), "Lost All Day" ("I've been lost all day / I've been gone forever / Should I stay?"), and "Knocked Around" ("'Cause I miss you / And I'm lonely / And I've fallen now / For my love"). Barlow also assists in the themes of emotional turmoil in "Love Is..." ("Let it fall on you / Let it pin you down / Until you tell the truth") and being rendered motionless from uncertainty on the path of life in "Left/Right" ("I lie, yeah I lie / I lie to believe / And slowly I caved / Let fear claim my fate").
Overall Impression — 8
As straightforward as Dinosaur Jr. are in their approach to rock, their execution of it hones in on a raw energy that's so easily lost in the overproduced arena rock trends of today. And while still keeping a mindfulness to not do the exact same thing with each record, "Give a Glimpse..." provides a more successful offering of expansion than "I Bet on Sky" attempted. From a sensible addition of different genre characteristics peppered in, to a significantly beneficial rise in Barlow's presence throughout the album, "Give a Glimpse..." shows that Dinosaur Jr. can still grow for the better after so many albums.