Unless this is the first review of the album you've clicked on or have been oblivious to the fact that they're still around, I Bet On Sky is the third Dinosaur Jr. album released by the reformed original line-up of J Mascis, Murph, and Lou Barlow since 2007. After a shaky couple of years as 'J Mascis and his Dinosaur Jr.' in the '90s, the reunion didn't falter as much as first suspected, but in fact blossomed and the newly reformed trio have since released two of their best albums so far. With the release of I Bet On Sky, the greying rockers can now make that three of their best albums so far. Beyond and Farm showed us that, about a decade after their last release (1988's Bug), each member of the band still makes the others tick, and they all feed off one another to create the kind of music many of us thought died along with D Boon and Kurt Cobain - that's gritty, punk-infused rock that genuinely made sense and didn't make you lose all faith in music and humanity.
I Bet On Sky kicks things off with 'Don't Pretend You Didn't Know', a trademark approach by the band to hit the ground running immediately using heaps of Mascis' raucous guitar playing, akin to crowd favourites 'Freak Scene' and 'The Wagon'. But wait, what's that in the background? All the usual elements are here; the unhinged riff-heavy guitar of Mascis going hand in hand with his grizzly vocals, Barlow's melodic yet hard-as-nails bass lines and Murph's eardrum shattering drumming - but the guys have also brought in a few new elements to their sound too and, frankly, come off better as a result. The song has a heavy dose of keyboards playing in the background and this escape from the norm is something that shows up frequently on the album. The keys are a nice touch and most blatant on the opener, but it isn't just the discovery of keyboards that have showed up on the album, but acoustic guitars too on 'Almost Fare' and 'Recognition.' These take nothing away from the Dinosaur Jr. sound of old, but instead prove that the band are listening to each other now and taking in new ideas and, as a result, coming off sounding a little more inventive and a little wiser. Frankly, after 10 albums and nearly 30 years on the music scene, a little bit of something different is always a good thing as at least it means that the trio aren't getting stale just yet; I Bet On Sky shows us that there's life in this old horse yet.
A maturing in sound, yes, but let's not forget why people are still looking forward to new Dinosaur Jr. releases after all these years; that garage sound that at many time may have been the J Mascis show is still a firm favourite and just because we can hear Murph's drumming and Barlow's bass a little better doesn't mean that the DIY punk ethic that we still long for has gone. 'Pierce The Morning Rain' is one of the group's most entertaining, in-your-face tracks in their whole repertoire, whilst album closer 'See It On Your Side' is all the scuzzy noise you could hope to hear and, coming in at a whopping 6 minutes 39 seconds, it is practically a punk prog song.
With more grey hairs than a witches wig emporium, you'd be forgiven for thinking that it's time for Mascis, Barlow and Murph to hang up their boots but, like the tongue firmly in cheek video for Farm's 'Over It' showed three years ago, the trio are still sticking to the Jr. rather than the Dinosaur of their name and won't be bowing out without a fight. Long may they continue!
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