How many bands still touring in 2009 can claim to have influenced Nirvana? There can’t be many, but Dinosaur Jr. have a decent shout. They’re not short of other claims to fame either, such as being sued by a Grateful Dead/ Jefferson Airplane super group, being widely compared to Neil Young, and having a bust up between two of the stars – J Mascis and Lou Barlow – that’s rumoured to have lasted 16 years. It’s all very rock and roll, but most of the drama – and their musical peak – took place back in the late 80s and early 90s, which leaves us with one obvious question. For all Dinosaur Jr.’s credentials, do we still care?
Farm, Dinosaur Jr.’s second album since the reformation of their original line up in 2005, gives as a simple and emphatic answer: yes. But before we get stuck in to the tracks, Farm’s cartoon cover is certainly worth a mention. It features two grassy green cartoon monsters helping a small group of nude women across a polluted urban wasteland. A great metaphor for their music, perhaps, which sounds strained and unpolished next to modern studio productions, and is all the better for it.
There’s a real 80s-era Dinosaur Jr. feel to Farm, with heavy and epically lengthily guitar solos infused with catchy, tuneful choruses that wallow in upbeat melodrama with a bitter edge. Despite the tendency to drone and a distinctive classic rock sound to Farm’s guitars, it’s more of a summer sun album than Dinosaur Jr. fans are accustomed to. The classic verse-chorus-verse (chorus-verse-chorus-verse) styling is predictable, but so are many truly memorable tracks, and the instant sing-a-long feeling combined with the sense that Dinosaur Jr.’s dodgy mid-90s era is well behind them is bound to put a smile on any classic rock fans face.
-I Don’t Wanna Go There’ could easily be Mascis’ mumbled concession to past differences, in which he mumbles “and the world spins around you, believe it, and the world really needs you, now I see it” to a thrashy, upbeat guitar backdrop. It’s the opening tracks that really stick in the head though, like -Ocean In The Way’, a tuneful classic rock piece crammed with high-pitched guitar solos and vocal melancholy. -Plans’ beautifully showcases the country roots Dinosaur Jr. should always have played up, though not without the obligatory guitar solo. Opener -Pieces’ sets the stall out, with a darker sound and infectious guitar breakdown.
All in all, Farm manages to sound both modern and relevant without compromising what Dinosaur Jr. have always been about. If anything, it’s a late-in-the-day musical growth, and it’s a surprising joy to listen to. Expect an album crammed full of that softer kind of classic rock that hints a little at Guns and Roses, yet doesn’t need hiding behind the record purchases of a misguided youth. One thing’s for certain: Dinosaur Jr. aren’t back for nostalgia, or for cash. They’re every bit as good as they used to be, and they’re back to rock.