Another in a recent slew of bands shooting for longevity, Dinosaur Jr. had a bumpy path to rejuvenation, breaking up in the late nineties and staying that way for almost a decade. But there is something about the chemistry of these three; J Mascis, Lou Barlow, and Murph mesh in the same way on Beyond as they did in the eighties, and follow-up Farm is proof it wasn't just a coincidence last time around. Solid songwriting and dreamy riff rock pulsates, as Mascis sings with the vigor of a twenty year old (hint: he is not twenty). The best part: Dinosaur Jr.'s influence is irrelevant in evaluating their new release. It's a stand-alone success.
From the front, Farm embodies the alt-rock partial distortion Dinosaur Jr. pioneered with their earlier releases, the same sound bands like Nirvana and the derivative Foo Fighters were fond of emulating. Here, they don't feel stilted at all. Mascis manages to write songs that feel timeless, like opener "Pieces," with a heavy reliance on riffs to drive the melody, and a guitar chomping bridge. "Your Weather" chugs along with spatial chorus harmonies both nostalgic and refreshing in their meticulous balance, sharing the spotlight with elongated guitar sentences (and an almost identical vocal riff to Passion Pit's "Live To Tell The Tale." Did you catch that?). In any event, it's nice to hear true alternative noises, an entire album of guitar rock that doesn't sound ripped or old-hat.
And by all accounts, it should be both. How the trio managed to do this twice in two years is pretty astounding; making multiple records that feel defrosted from decades past and still fresh? The songwriting is nothing mind-blowing, the simple lineup of guitar and drums, predictable. But the songwriting is solid, and simplicity often allows a band to use its strengths in a more raw, exposed fashion. Dinosaur Jr. manage to make good, identifiable use of the guitar, a feat in itself in today's emphasis on 'new,' 'forward thinking' music, more often favoring the weird and eccentric over the well written and ear-catching. The guitar has always been the center of 'rock' music, so why not show some proficiency at its intricacies?
Make no mistake, Mascis rarely depends on anything but electric guitar to drive riffs, singing with his strings almost as much as his mouth. "Over It" begins with a nice wah-based guitar melody that definitely feels off the time-line, but by the middle of Farm if you still care about placing these guys in an era, you're doing something wrong. -joe puglisi