Five years into their classic line-up re-formation, the original guitar-shredding power trio of country-punk grunge-core continue to sound like nobody else.
It has long been clear that J Mascis has little interest in straying very far from the signature Dinosaur Jr sound of sleepy-voiced sludge-metal slathered in gloriously incontinent guitar solos, but I Bet On Sky still contains a few offbeat surprises.
Opening track Don’t Pretend You Didn’t Know immediately wrongfoots listeners with its jaunty funk-pop strumming and bubbling keyboard melody, although Mascis crashes in halfway through with some reassuringly sloppy, loud, mud-caked fretwork. Likewise Rude, featuring bassist Lou Barlow on vocals, which skips along with an incongruously perky power-pop freshness.
But mostly, the trio’s third post-comeback album sticks to familiar terrain, which will delight fans of vintage Mascis sadcore. There’s the bone-weary honky-tonk clatter of Almost Fare and the melancholy stop-start power-ballad riff-chugger Stick A Toe In: ‘Take my hand,’ the singer groans, _‘don’t let me cheat you of the feeling you deserve’. _
Like The Cure’s Robert Smith, whose songs he has covered, Mascis sometimes seems to be stuck in a perpetual loop of whiny teenage self-pity. Both are prisoners of instantly recognisable voices, but on good form, both transform depressive moans into powerfully emotive music.