Dinosaur Jr.’s Beyond, the first album to feature the group’s original lineup in more than 15 years, was as solid as rock albums come. And yet, the myth and the presence of the band is so monumental and so powerful that it didn’t even have to be that good by Dinosaur standards, and it would likely still mop the floor with any of the feedback fetishizing Mascis disciples attempting to sling their own grungy neo-classic rock riffs. That it was, in fact, completely fucking rad just drove the point home that Dinosaur Jr. truly earned the praise and adoration they’ve built up over the years. Tracks like “Almost Ready” and “Been There All The Time” not only made for perfect alt-rock radio fodder, they actually sounded like the work of a band that enjoyed what they were doing, and approached their material with renewed enthusiasm.
Having made the leap from Fat Possum to Jagjaguwar for subsequent album Farm, Dinosaur Jr. not only sustain the high standard set on Beyond, but bests it by refining their melodies and expanding their tracks into awe-inspiring and epic anthems. On a surface level, the group hasn’t done much to alter the sound they’ve refined and filtered into something unique and inimitable. Yet Farm carries with it some subtle shifts away from their prior outing. J Mascis’ production leaves the distortion as enormous as ever, but with some of the fuzz smoothed out, giving it the slightest elegant sheen. And the hooks and melodies on this album stand as some of the strongest the group has ever written.
Farm is very much an album of singles in the sense that pretty much anything here is a hook-filled summer road trip anthem. Any alternative radio stations (funny that they still exist, eh?) worth their salt would be throwing some of these in the rotation between old Nirvana and Pixies singles. However, the songs that are officially singles are perhaps just that much more immediate. “Over It” is classic Dinosaur—three chords, meaty riffs and Mascis’ motivational speech for couch-ridden indie rockers (“I’ve been feeling weird/ get over it…“). “I Don’t Wanna Go There,” released as a tour seven-inch, is nearly nine minutes long, but its massive length by no means stands in the way of its mesmerizing melodies and, of course, Mascis’ blazing, Crazy Horse-worthy riffs.
“I Don’t Wanna Go There” is one of three songs that stretch past the six-minute mark, with the equally stunning “Plans” and “Said the People” rounding out the trio of soaring highlights. The former lays the overdrive on thick as usual, but it’s a surprisingly pretty song. Of course, it thoroughly rocks, but with Mascis’ guitar weeping along as he moans “I’ve got nothing left to be/ do you have some plans for me?“, even the most masculine of Dino fans might get a little choked up. “Said the People,” meanwhile, is a dusty blues-rock number that finds Murph pounding out some ominous crashes like lightning on the horizon of a desert highway. And on the slightly shorter “See You” (at 5:47), Mascis turns down the noise for a shimmering series of pop riffs that could stick in your head for days.
Should anyone be under the mistaken assumption that Farm is short on three- and four-minute fuzz-rock throwdowns, let me dispel any such notions. This is what Dinosaur Jr. does best, and on Farm, they kick as much ass as ever. Opener “Pieces” delivers volume and melody in lethal doses, blowing out the speakers with a tune that single-handedly puts any of today’s guitar Gods in training to shame. “I Want You To Know” carries a bit of laid-back, badass swagger with its meaty guitar licks, while Lou Barlow’s “Your Weather” is dark and abrasive in its arrangement, but nonetheless tuneful. “Friends,” true to its name, is a fun and friendly track fit for barbecues and drunken summer nights, while “There’s No Here” allows the screeching guitar licks to subside during its haunting verses, to amazing results.
With a few years back into the swing of touring, writing and recording under their belts, Dinosaur Jr. have re-emerged with one of their best albums to date. Where their classic albums like Bug and You’re Living All Over Me found the band young and willing to push boundaries that other bands had yet to breach, Farm reveals that age and time has treated the band well. Mature only in the sense that the group knows what the hell they’re doing, Farm is youthful and raucous, and basically awesome all around.
Neil Young – Rust Never Sleeps
Built to Spill – Keep It Like A Secret
Sonic Youth – The Eternal
MP3: “I Want You To Know”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.