Reunions don’t usually work out this well. In 2005, Dinosaur Jr. assembled their original lineup from the Eighties to revisit their blistering classic material. With the acrimony years behind them, they decided to keep on playing.
“We were definitely just going one day at a time,” singer-guitarist J Mascis tells Rolling Stone. “We decided that if we wanted to play more shows, we should have a record, and then we did a record – and did another record.”
Dinosaur Jr. recently finished recording I Bet on Sky – their third LP since 2007, due out on September 18th on Jagjaguwar – at Mascis’ home in Amherst, Massachusetts; the new tunes reflect a natural progression into fuzzed-out ballads with gentler melodies. “I guess on this record, I wasn’t as worried if we could play the songs live,” Mascis says. “[On] the other two records [2007’s Beyond and 2009’s Farm], I was thinking of it being more songs that we could play live and tour more. I guess that’s what’s kind of different about this album: I just did what I felt would sound good.”
The song “Watch the Corners,” which premieres exclusively on RollingStone.com today, starts out with chugging riffs that ease into Mascis’ vocals, and properly closes with a shredding solo. Wedged in the middle of the tune is an atypical breakdown with a brief flash of acoustic guitar. “I always liked that since I was a kid, from like, Black Sabbath,” Mascis says. “Suddenly they go into acoustic, back into electric – I guess I’ve always been into that.” He adds that it’s not the first time the trio has attempted to release the song. “That one’s been around for a long time. We tried to play it on [Beyond]. It really sounded bad.”
The famously laconic Mascis is the band’s sole consistent member. Bassist Lou Barlow was awkwardly kicked out after the release of the band’s 1988 album, Bug, and drummer Murph was replaced before the hiatus started in the late-Nineties. But now, the group seems to be getting along fine, Mascis says – or at least, well enough. Barlow, who formed Sebadoh and Folk Implosion in the Nineties, makes a few songwriting contributions toI Bet on Sky, like the jangly, upbeat “Rude” and the speedy “Recognition.”
“We pretty much figured out how to make it work, I guess,” Mascis says. “Depends on the day, it changes a lot.”
Both Barlow and Mascis are wary of constantly repeating the band’s old material on tour. “It’s kind of the only way we could keep going, after playing the old songs,” Mascis explains. “You know, I think people get sick of that after a while.”