In an American political climate fraught with chaos and uncertainty, Dinosaur Jr.’s Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not is the warm, comforting blanket of Marshall-stack fuzz we need. The band has become the alt-rock equivalent of AC/DC or Motorhead: Their sound is formulaic, but frontman J. Mascis’s guitar tone, his effectively no-frills songwriting, and the rhythm section’s synergy is irresistibly familiar. The album barely even bothers tinkering with this familiar template; it has the least distinctive musical identity of any of the four albums that Dinosaur Jr. has released since the long-awaited reformation of their classic power-trio lineup in 2005. Not given over entirely to the atmospherics of Beyond, the heavy jamminess of Farm, or the poppiness of I Bet on Sky, Give a Glimpse instead combines all those stylistic elements into a package that may not feature as many lastingly memorable songs, but is replete with all the welcome signatures of the band’s sound.
There’s arguably only one song on Give a Glimpse that demands immediate induction into the Dinosaur Jr. classics canon: the opening track, “Goin Down,” a prototypical, euphoric powerhouse of heavy power chords and an enveloping, melodic chorus, topped off by a pleasingly unexpected electric sitar solo. Otherwise the songwriting throughout the album becomes secondary. Mascis gets the recipe down to such a science that Dinosaur Jr. fans will be left satisfied, even if the songs mostly fail to offer any surprises beyond that one sitar solo. Mascis is always going to just come up with some standard chord changes, crank the amps up to 11, nonchalantly intone a few simple slacker rhymes in that crusty whine of his, and let the world’s loudest rhythm section pound along as he alternates between hard-rock riffage (“Good to Know,” “I Walk for Miles”), friendly jangling (“I Told Everyone,” “Lost All Day”), and hazy slow-burning (“Be a Part,” “Knocked Around”) before launching into one of his signature piercing guitar solos. He knows what his fans want, which is probably why the band released a seven-minute supercut of all the guitar solos on the album in advance of its release.
As a result, only rarely does an element of any of the songs on Give a Glimpse stand out as even slightly formula-breaking, like the charmingly poppy melody of the verses on “Tiny” and the moody guitar arpeggios of “Be a Part.” The task of injecting some quirk and diversity into the proceedings once again falls to bassist Lou Barlow, whose token two songwriting efforts have been consistent highlights on each of Dinosaur Jr.’s post-reunion albums. That streak continues with the angsty “Left/Right” and “Love Is…,” the latter of which is a delightfully campy yet brooding, mostly acoustic-based pop song that sounds like a lost single by Jefferson Airplane or the Yardbirds. It’s just the glimpse of a surprise the album needed.