Dinosaur Jr. - I Bet On Sky
As with all ludicrously influential bands it's kind of strange receiving new material from Dinosaur Jr.; do we judge the album considering the huge legacy of the band or is it best to forget who you're writing about and consider the music in isolation? The answer is somewhere in the middle. Nothing is made in a vacuum but Dinosaur Jr. cannot be given extra points because they guided the evolution of the genre of which they are now sat comfortably within. They have to try just as hard as every other band out there to make an impression upon a reviewer as cynical and needlessly critical as I.
Now, I Bet On Sky is not a bad album. It has some genuinely catchy songs on it. Opener 'Don't Pretend You Didn't Know' bursts into action with its tuneful riff and slack vocals. Essentially everything here just works. There's a sense that by this point Dinosaur Jr. are extremely comfortable with the music they are making. There is not a clunker on the album because, I think, by this point the group have become experienced enough to know how to not make a bad song. The riffs are all bright and full on, the guitar solos are accomplished and each track just generally hums along with a positive feel.
That said, I'm not entirely convinced this is a great album. It's good, sure, but that's basically all it is. I struggled writing that last paragraph because ultimately there's not that much to say in praise of I Bet On Sky. Everything works remarkably well and it's all put together superbly but it's lacks that element of chaotic genius that made the early output of the band so compelling. This is partially because the sound is a little too clean. Dinosaur Jr. are best when they are creating a racket and here they just don't seem especially interested in doing that.
Next, the album just feels too predictable at times. Does every song need a guitar solo? Solos are fine but here they feel overused, however well played they essentially are. Each track seems to have the same basic beat and feel and there is rarely a sense that the group are truly stretching themselves. Perhaps after so long making music they have simply grown tired of innovation and pushing their own boundaries? This probably isn't the case as the group still sound as if they are having fun playing here. This isn't a dreary lifeless album by any means, it's breaming with life and energy.
Criticism aside there's a lot of positives to be found here, it's just difficult to state them at any verbose length. This is an accomplished and well put together album. It's full of good songs and is very consistent. Perhaps it lacks a really 'killer choon' but this hardly confines I Bet On Sky to the world of complete mediocrity. There's much to enjoy here but nothing that will stay with you for years to come.