There is a long history in anything related to Dinosaur Jr. The band formed in 1984 and pioneered distorted guitar rock. They were one of the first bands to display the power of feedback and the “wall of sound.” There would be no My Bloody Valentine, Built to Spill or Nirvana without Dinosaur Jr. They went on a hiatus in the late ’90s but in 2005 the original lineup reformed and this classic group has been on a great career revival ever since.
I Bet On Sky is the band’s third album since the reformation and follows the trend of each one being incredibly impressive. It’s as if they have a revitalized purpose. In the beginning they were pioneering a distinct rock sound and now they are keeping it alive. They don’t stray too far from this sound, as in you know what you’re getting yourself into with this new album. There is going to be hard rock, melodic vocals and some absolutely insane shredding. There are no other active bands that shred like Dinosaur Jr. frontman J Mascis and he isn’t afraid to show it off.
A lot of I Bet On Sky is reminiscent of Mascis’ solo album Several Shades of Why, which shows him playing acoustic guitar and singing softly while still exclaiming his remarkable guitar fingers. The entire album is plugged in, much of it being on the softer side. “Stick a Toe In” is slower and the distorted guitar is laced in the background, covered by a playful piano.
Bassist Lou Barlow, the co-founder who originally left the lineup in the ’90s to form the lo-fi driven Sebadoh, helms the faster songs on I Bet On Sky. “Rude” is heavy and bass-driven and Barlow’s vocals, while melodic, are tighter than Mascis’. Barlow also wrote the dance-worthy “Recognition” which has a guitar part similar to something by the Arctic Monkeys or another new age indie-rock group. The end of “Recognition” drives downward into a instrumental spiral bound to excite crowds around the country. The other song that implies a mosh pit is “Pierce the Morning Rain,” which has a fast guitar and an unforgivable bass line.
I Bet On Sky may be more melodic than usual but there are still a lot of mixed genres. “I Know It Oh So Well” showcases a sick funky guitar riff and “See It On Your Side” digs into a magnum opus of anthem rock. While J Mascis’ vocals may have gotten more melodic than a hard rock audience may prefer, Dinosaur Jr. still have a lot of fight in them. Their mere presence is a nostalgic reminder of what it means to really rock. The fact that they’re still delivering worthwhile and creative albums is simply amazing.