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Reviews

Dinosaur Jr
Farm AP Childs , June 24th, 2009 06:01

I write on the summer solstice. Druids have shed their incantations, Wiccan priestesses have drawn their cowls tight and half-naked Papuan dancers weave their hands in the air and chant their Woo, woo, woos. The burning sun powers on and continues to beat back the impending dusk swarm coming up from the south.

Festival season is now well underway and I imagine the deep-set, stone-drift eyes, thousands of ’em; grinning up, blown-out eyes and ears agog listen to the howl of one J. Mascis' guitar bursting through the solstice sunset. It powers, clanks, screams and chunks, world-weary yet blissful. Urgent yet lethargic. Fast, loose and effortless. As some idiot once said, We are all stoned . . . immaculate.

Of course I am at no festival. Your reviewer tired of the mud and the shit and the disappearance of tents back in the early 90s, save for a recent incident where I went to Bestival by mistake. But listening to Farm, the second comeback album in as many years of Dinosaur Jr's original line up — J. Mascis (guitars and voice), Lou Barlow (bass) and Murph (drums) — conjours up the happier memories of my Glasto and other festival days. Back then, if you were lucky enough, you could find yourself passing by the 'sunset' stage where the penultimate band of the day would be putting out a magical set that would sooth a chemically imbalanced head as the final curtain of a summer’s day came down. The sunset slot at such events has now reached mythic status and the management of bands old and new clamour for this potentially lucrative (due to TV coverage) spot.

Why Dinosaur Jr recover this festival emotion in me I'm not exactly sure, but the atmosphere of this album perfectly suits that twilight zone. But is that feel there simply because the band are an extension of where they left off back in the early 90s or is it something more sublime; is it a factor of design and development over retrogression?

Like 2007's well received Beyond, Farm assures us that the band have indeed improved with age. Album opener ‘Pieces’ is a signature screamer that offers comfort to old and new fans alike; it's not until the second listen that it moves into a different sphere, with Lou Barlow's abrasive gravel bass chords offsetting the husked out drawl of Mascis' voice and strangled refrains of his guitar. Again, the worked-out grind of ‘I Want You To Know’ hints that Farm is far from a straightforward re-visit to yesteryear; the guitars fizz with infectious urgency and a cranked up, designer messiness continues throughout.

You'll hear much development on this album; not only that, but a clear and new-found compatibility between the musical and sociable existence of its members. This is especially satisfying given that this is a band that crumbled through chronic in-house squabbling two decades ago. Current single ‘Over It’ uses their signature palette of distorted riffs and unshakable hooks, all entrenched in Mascis' sun-kissed melodies. Penultimate number ‘I Don't Want To Go There’ proves Dinosaur Jr's maturity as players and new-found contentment to work together as it flies into proper festival territory, the extended coda ripping into to the red sky, and soaring high into the night.

One cannot dismiss a band for not being relevant anymore. Not in these stifling times of ASOS.com styled 4x4 indie rock cocks taking the industry for a 15 minute ride. Yes, Dinosaur Jr have produced something that is a continuation of what the original line-up wound up doing in the early 90s, but Farm clearly shows that every effort is being made to progress. The rock ‘n’ roll business is just as much Dinosaur Jr's business as it is some 15-minute fart-sack outfit's, and Farm proves it. And if that takes you back to when you were cool that's no bad thing.

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