Thursday, June 9, 2011

Dinosaur Jr.- Farm

For all the comparisons to Neil Young that they've endured over the years, for all the influence they had on the British shoegazer scene of the late 80s/early 90s, the most intriguing thing to me about Dinosaur Jr. is the fact that they've gotten away with being what is essentially a power trio in an underground/indie scene which normally turns its nose up at such things. Really, especially after watching the Live In The Middle East concert film, I think of this band as the Cream of the 80s. It's not a perfect analogy, I admit, yet it's not hard to see the same clash of egos and resentment between bassist and guitarist in both bands.

Of course there's also the music. While Dinosaur Jr. don't sound much like Cream, give a listen to Farm and tell me that I'm wrong in considering them a power trio. The riffs are heavy and memorable, full of fist pumping abandon bested only by J. Mascis's searing, endlessly enjoyable soloing. Though the rhythm section lacks his virtuosity, they are every bit as solid as classic rock benchmarks like Led Zeppelin. Since bassist Lou Barlow spent his time away (from the mid-80s until 2005, when the original Dinosaur Jr. line-up reunited) making music in various bands, he now has the confidence and outside creative outlets to be a perfect foil to Mascis, delivering a couple great tunes per record and playing with creativity and energy. This is, ultimately, Mascis's band, but Barlow and drummer Murph are no longer just along for the ride, doing and playing what they're told to. Now it feels more like a "lesser but equal" situation.

Farm was Dinosaur Jr.'s second album after the reunion, and you get the impression throughout that the band have jumped on the opportunity to rewrite history. It's not hard to imagine this record coming out in some, say, alternate history 1999 where Barlow had stayed in the band through the 80s and 90s. In fact, Barlow's contributions to Farm sound eerily similar to Sebadoh's 1999 album The Sebadoh, down to the punchy, live-sounding production and all. But I digress.

With the pressure of their reunion tour and 'first album back' behind them, there's a real energy to this record which belies the band's enthusiasm for recording and playing music together. While they may have stretched out on stage back in the 80s, Farm feels like the most live and jammy of all of their albums, underscoring and highlighting how power trio-y they are. It's telling that this is the band's longest album ever, doubly so because most of the shortest songs were relegated to the bonus tracks included on the deluxe edition. 'Plans', 'Said The People', and 'I Don't Wanna Go There' all sprawl past the six minute mark, the latter in particular, featuring a soaring guitar solo that seems to last for half of the nearly nine minute runtime.

That sprawl and lack of concision to Farm as a whole means that this isn't the masterstroke it could have been if this were a more song oriented versus performance based record. The songs aren't all fantastic though the music is exceptionally good, if that makes sense. Such a situation cuts both ways, since this is the kind of music which makes you want to listen to it and it alone for the rest of the day. Farm doesn't supplant You're Living All Over Me as the band's high water mark...though you may be surprised how often you end up listening to it.

4 Poorly Drawn Stars Out Of 5

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