Tuesday will see the release of Dinosaur Jr's ninth album, Farm. It's their second disc following the 2005 reunion of the original lineup. The first of those albums, 2007's Beyond, was my favorite album that year, and remains my favorite Dinosaur album (sorry, You're Living All Over Me, you're a close second). I first heard it in May 2007, and it was a total revelation--J Mascis' towering torrents of guitar noise seemed to bury the apprehension and bewilderment in his drawled lyrics. I loved them both.
I later became an enormous Dinosaur fan, and it'd be an understatement to say that the release of Farm is a big deal around these parts. I preordered the album the first day it was available, and it arrived in the mail yesterday. I got the special 2xCD edition, with four bonus tracks, and as one of the first 200 people to preorder, I got an autographed Dinosaur poster(!). I listened to the album once while a friend was over, so I thought I'd share my thoughts on Farm during my second listening, track by track:
1. "Piece By Piece"--A melodic rocker with some monster riffing, par for the course as the first track on a Dinosaur Jr album. While not quite "Freak Scene," "The Wagon," or "Almost Ready," I nonetheless refuse to complain about a song this good. The guitars are warm sounding--if there was one legitimate criticism of Beyond, it was that it did sound a bit sterile--and Mascis' voice is really buried in the mix. 5/5
2. "I Want You To Know"--One of the songs released in the run-up to Farm, the stuttering rhythm and guitar line initially irked me. They still do, though I've warmed to the song a bit. It's remarkable, however, how much the reunion of J, Lou and Murph can sound like Green Mind/Where You Been period Dinosaur--during which Lou was kicked out of the band and Murph only ocassionally provided the drums. Murph really hammers the cymbals on this one. 3.5/5
3. "Ocean In The Way"--A bit more languid than the openers, and in 3/4 time, which I don't think most of J's songs are. I honestly wish I could hear the vocals a bit more, and I say this as someone who counts There's A Riot Goin' On, Exile On Main Street, and Murmur as three of his favorite albums. The song slows just after the 2-minute mark, with some quite nice bursts of sustained notes. Features an unusually slow guitar solo. 4/5
4. "Plans"--Slower yet, and with an opening riff that evokes some of the more heartbroken moments on Beyond. Chorus: "I got nothing left to be/Do you have some plans for me?"--hands up if that reminds you of "In A Jar." The chorus is answered with J's wail: "I know you do"; it looks corny on paper, but it's great to hear the country twang in his drawl again. Rather long at 6:42, but the album itself kinda sprawls. It's actually lovely. 4.5/5
5. "Your Weather"--Obviously a Lou song from the first moment onward, it's got the tunefully dissonant vibe he perfected with Sebadoh. I could actually see Jason Lowenstein writing something like this, and in any case it totally sounds like three-quarters of Bakesale. More bass-driven than anything that preceded it. 4/5
6. "Over It"--Just fucking absolutely sweet. J's guitar opens with a high-pitched and super catchy squeal, multitracked over other layers of his own shredding (I hope he's able to pull this one off live). The squeal actually adorns very little of the song, but the entire track has an unstoppable, punkish momentum to it. 5/5
7. "Friends"--The riff here wants to be at least three things at once, and while J can obviously play the thing, it could have used a little more time in the oven. The most appealing parts are a descending guitar line and the interplay of multi-tracked Jazzmasters towards the end. 3.5/5
8. "Said The People"--At 7:42, this is the third longest track in the Dinosaur catalog. Starts slowly, with Mascis communicating regret more through his guitar and voice than his lyrics. While his guitar has always been crucial, an incredibly expressive instrument, J's lyrics were always central to me. On this album, however, I can hardly hear them (not nearly as much on this track), and from what I can hear, Lou is right that they're not J's best. His subject matter is hardly new--alienation--but on Farm Mascis' lyrics are about as nimble as his vocal range, whereas usually they hold considerable mystery. This track could've been more concise, obviously, but there's seems to have been a logic to stretching it out. Malkmus would understand. 4/5
9. "There's No Here"--Insistent, aggressive instrumentation, especially from J and Murph, make this more of a throwback to early-period Dinosaur than anything we've heard so far (it's kind of "No Bones"-y). A towering post-chorus riff sounds more like the stuff of more recent vintage, but goes well with the rest of the song. The production here is much warmer than anything from Bug, say, and it likewise suits this track. John Agnello, who engineered this disc, also produced Sonic Youth's recent and fantastic The Eternal, which sounded way more metallic. 4.5/5
10. "See You"--Vaguely funky in the way that certain moments on the Sire albums are. It's a warm, elastic funkiness unique to J's guitar. Mascis' vocals hardly sound like words, but his pleading tone works well. 4/5.
11. "I Don't Wanna Go There"--The single longest song on a Dinosaur Jr studio album; the success of "Pick Me Up" on Beyond seems to have emboldened the band to indulge. A cacophonous ball of confusion with a super-long (and awesome) solo that begins midway through the track and lasts for almost 4 minutes. Shit, I doubt there's more than a couple people on this planet who could even play that. 4/5
12. "Imagination Blind"--The other Lou song on the record, with a huge chorus that sounds right as Farm wraps up (no "Poldeo"s here). Though his other contribution was climate-themed, this is the one that pummels like a hailstorm. 4.5/5