I’m conscious that, with the Lemonheads and Sonic Youth posts last week, the blog’s slightly in danger of degenerating into something of a dewy-eyed home for alt-rock fans who were students in the late ‘80s. But unfortunately, I’m going to have to keep this going for a while longer, since the new Dinosaur Jr album represents another band of that generation sustaining their current run of form.
Mascis, Barlow and Murph’s comeback album, “Beyond”, was the subject of the very first – and with hindsight somewhat sketchy – post on Wild Mercury Sound, and much of the same things hold true for “Farm”. If anything, though, this one’s even better than “Beyond”, very much bucking the trend of bands putting out a serviceable reunion album, using it to keep the comeback tour rolling for another 12 months, then quietly dissolving again.
Thinking about it this morning, there’s very little reason why Dinosaur Jr should be able to return with such a hot streak – with two albums that are probably better than virtually everything J Mascis has recorded since Lou Barlow first jumped ship. The chemistry of lineups is a peculiarly unsteady science at the best of times, but that which empowers the original Dinosaur trio is especially baffling.
How can we talk of chemistry at all, really, in a band that was always so legendarily dysfunctional, or at least run as some kind of passive-aggressive autocracy by Mascis? Perhaps Barlow and Murph, for all their caution, understand Mascis and the way his songs work better than any other musicians, and perhaps Mascis himself, in spite of the mythical blankness of his demeanour, is motivated by their presence?
Whatever: they’ve made a generally pretty thrilling album. “Farm” is a bit more varied, relatively speaking, with fractionally less of the hardcore thrust of “Beyond” – a thrust you could probably ascribe to them recording that comeback on the back of live shows that pivoted around “You’re Living All Over Me”.
There are some gentler, more or less, songs here like “See You” and “Plans”, the odd moment where a certain keening Southern rock groove emerges (on “Friends”, especially) from the usual protean chug, and the occasional air between the effects (on the outstanding solo in “I Don’t Wanna Go There”, specifically) where Mascis reveals the delicacy and technical precision of his playing that’s often so gloriously fudged and obscured.
Mostly, though, it’s a typical J Mascis/Dinosaur album, but a much better than average one. The song titles remain heroically unmemorable: surely, he must have including a great lurching song called “I Don’t Wanna Go There” on every album he’s made in the past two decades? It begins, again, with a song that appears to have already been going on for about a minute – this one’s called “Pieces”, has a marvellous hook, and follows what we might call the “Wagon” model.
Then there are Lou’s songs – two this time – which again present the tantalising vision of his great mature songwriting allied to Dinosaur’s incomparable muscle. The first one, “Your Weather”, is a classic even by his standards, fit to stand comparison with his finest surging folk-rockers like “Beauty Of The Ride”.
Heartening stuff. As, by the looks of it, were the performances on the Uncut stage at Brighton’s Great Escape festival. A quick reminder that Tom’s been blogging about White Denim, Abe Vigoda et al here for us.