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Dinosaur Jr. - Farm

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Artist: Dinosaur Jr.

Album: Farm

Label: Jagjaguwar

Review date: Jul. 23, 2009

I remember reading an article in Chemical Imbalance, an occasionally great fanzine that enjoyed a late ’80s heyday as a place people looked for information on bands that weren’t necessarily out in the open. In it, one of the writers (maybe it was editor Mike McGonigal; honestly, I’m way too lazy to go digging through boxes) took two pages to lambast a top-of-its-game-in-’87 Dinosaur Jr. in typical zine fashion: excoriating opinions, tempered by popular understanding of the band so as not to look too harsh.

Over time, this guy may have broken a few blood vessels worrying about their ascending popularity on college campuses (and later, at the mall). J. Mascis was all but able to carve his face on alternarock’s Mount Rushmore, alongside Henry Rollins, Thurston Moore and Kurt Cobain. It’s now been 25 years since the first Dinosaur album was recorded, and the stories around bassist Lou Barlow’s unceremonious dismissal, the band’s transformation during its major label tenure, and the muddy reception of J. Mascis’ jammier side project, the Fog (not to mention a 1996’s long-deleted solo album, Martin & Me, consisting almost entirely of acoustic Dino Jr tracks and a Smiths cover), are rarely spoken about anymore. Barlow’s reunion records with the band (beginning with 2007’s Beyond) have established a profitable venture for all involved, but moreover, they’ve proved that Dinosaur can still thread the needle as well as ever.

Many of us over 30 remember the first time we heard Dinosaur. The 12 tracks on Farm reach back to that moment, stripping away everything but the meaty, Crazy Horse-style rock at its backbone. There really are no surprises in store here, and I’m pretty sure half of these riffs were used by Mascis elsewhere in his body of work. Surely the song titles collude with this idea: we’ve had “Blowin’ It” and “Sure Not Over You” to match Farm’s “Over It”; “Water” meets “Ocean in the Way.” Connecting the dots has never been easier with any modern band.

Somehow it doesn’t mess with the magic. If Farm finds them taking less chances than before, its double-album length lets the good ideas breathe in a way that they haven’t since Green Mind. The spacious “Plans” and penultimate thrasher “I Don’t Wanna Go There” don’t seem long enough, even as seven-plus-minute wreckers. Opener “Pieces” sets the tone for the band’s signature mood of wily, pouty dissatisfaction, and if some of the interim tracks don’t necessarily roll out of bed, there’s more highlights here than on 2007’s Beyond. Even Barlow’s pair of offerings – one dressed down Sebadoh song, “Imagination Blind,” and the more direct “Your Weather,” which you know is a Lou song because it starts with bass – speak to an inner turmoil in the band laid to rest, by time, by maturity, by cold hard cash. Really, there’s only so many ways to juggle these ideas around. Why fight over it?

Dinosaur Jr. was the first band to ever make me want to start writing my own songs. Sebadoh’s work through Bakesale was the wake-up call that my jumbles of angst should never, ever, see the light of day. But by then, my bias was booked. I can’t beef with these guys no matter what, and in many ways I’m glad they keep making the same record. In our modern scramble to do away with the past so that some dummy can feel like a million bucks when he happens to repeat it, it’s sort of an honor that these three would get back together and, through tremendous volume and hours spent wheedlin’ away, would reclaim the spoils that are so rightfully theirs.

By Doug Mosurock

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