Review of Dinosaur Jr's album Farm released through Pias/Jagjaguwar
The word 'legends' gets bandied around all too often, and mostly without any associated thought or context to the subject that's been unduly tagged. However, Dinosaur Jr are a different kettle of fish entirely. Certainly how many outfits that were formed over two decades ago can lay claim to having made two essentially groundbreaking records, influenced the likes of Kevin Shields and Kurt Cobain to make music in the first place and still retain a distinguished air of credibility, despite none of its band members being under the age of forty as we speak? In fact, that we're still talking about a new Dinosaur Jr record in 2009 - particularly one created by the 'classic' line-up of J Mascis, Lou Barlow and Patrick 'Murph' Murphy is something of an achievement in itself. Nevertheless, when the band posted 'I Want You To Know' as a free MP3 download on their website earlier this year, anticipation levels for the release of what would be their ninth studio album reached an all-time high.
And here it is in all its glory; well, perhaps not up there with the incendiary 'Bug' or 'You're Living All Over Me' granted but make no mistake, 'Farm' is without doubt one of their most impressive collections and one that over time, will surely take its rightful place in the upper echelons of its creators back catalogue.
Sure, comparisons to those heady days of yesteryear are inevitable, and while there isn't a 'Freak Scene' or 'Little Fury Things' hidden away here, Mascis and co. have conjured up a deft collection of gems that evidently suggests reaching a stage of maturity doesn't necessarily concur with becoming bland and predictable. Instead, there's a feeling here that 'Farm' is almost like a vehement war cry of unfinished business; not so much Custer's last stand but more a case of saying write us off at your peril, something many did fifteen years ago after the marginally (by their standards) disappointing 'Green Mind'.
There's no doubt that Dinosaur Jr could have taken the easy option such as say, the Pixies, by way of reforming for little more than expensive runs through greatest hits sets in the world's vacuous auditoriums. Instead, they've rediscovered the creative edge that made them such a vital outfit in the first place, not to mention their way around an expansive riff or two, and as a result rekindled much of the initial spark that made them a unique phenomenon of sorts once upon a time.
Ambitious to a tee, 'Farm' comes in at a resounding twelve tracks, some of which fall around the seven-to-eight minute mark yet sounds no less appetising in the process. The opening duet of 'Pieces' and the aforementioned 'I Want You To Know' follow the early nineties alt-rock staple with immeasurable aplomb, while Mascis states his worth two songs later on the desultory 'Plans', insisting 'I've got nothing left to be, do you have some plans for me?' On closer inspection this could be 'The Wagon' mark two, albeit a little less frantic.
Elsewhere, current live favourite 'I Don't Wanna Go There' takes the word epic and shrouds it in a flannel-coloured blanket, recalling the halcyon days when audacious, prolonged middle-eights were the order of the day. Likewise, 'Said The People', a claustrophobic, bite-sized sprawl that lies somewhere between dementia and excess. 'Your Weather' has a Haight-Ashbury feel about it, albeit via a Big Muff distorted bass sizzle while 'There's No Here' proves Mascis and co. can still conjure up three-minute leftfield pop slayers.
Overall, 'Farm' is a record that proves Dinosaur Jr can still cut it with the big guns of the day, no matter what era, and more importantly suggests their 21st Century re-invention as a creative force is far from extinguished just yet.