A few years ago I spent a rather heavy night with some friends indulging in some top quality weed. Having spent the best part of an hour crawling along the pavement after a fumbled cigarette and phoning for a friend to drive out to light it for me, I finally started the walk home in earnest. After a few paces it became obvious that I was following myself home.
Deciding that an out of body experience was not what I really required in my state, I set about chasing myself. After all if I couldn’t catch myself maybe the other me would go and have a better life, and I would be left feeling somewhat incomplete. Eventually I fell into myself, and all was right with the world. There are times however when I wonder what would have happened to the two of me had I not kept up with myself.
The reason I relate this story is twofold. Firstly there is the lack of focus that drugs can bring (hence the fumbled cigarette) and secondly sometimes you just have to leave part of yourself behind in order to progress (I obviously wasn’t ready).
With Old Growth it would appear that Dead Meadow have decided to move on, and they have done so in a typically woozy way. The heavy cloud of super strong skunk still hangs over them, influencing their every move.
The heavy stoner riffs though, they’ve crawled off into the distance, either discarded by the band or simply just out of reach for the time being at least. This means that if you were seduced by the amped up psychedelic swirl of previous album Feathers, then there are only a few moments that will sate your need for solid grinding grooves. In their place are the likes of the acoustic Either Way, or the gentle folk of Down Here. Where riffs once pummelled you endlessly until you were in a drone induced stupour, Old Growth finds the band wandering off into seemingly pointless jams.
Worse still, there are times when you can’t help but picture a tired old hippy perched under a tree strumming away in a patchouli fug. If the eastern sounding drums of Seven Seers are anything to go by then surely sitars will be introduced on the next album.
Still it’s not all bad, the opening salvo of Ain’t Got Nothing (To Go Wrong) and Between Me And The Ground sound like The Stone Roses jamming with Cream, while Jason Simon’s vocals have never sounded more English or insular. The Queen of All Returns, meanwhile is initially a perfect fusion of Prog and Metal but eventually loses its way making it evident that this is a new, albeit more relaxed Dead Meadow we are dealing with.
If you loved the old Dead Meadow you might conclude that there is too much spliff and not enough riff. If you’re willing to go with them though there is plenty to get lost in as their rambling jams have a habit of engulfing you whether you like it or not. Even the most lilting moments have the effect of slow release morphine, creating a warm comfortable ambience to curl up in.
For Dead Meadow this is growth of a kind, and it is certainly a move away from their old sound. Whether this is positive growth or not depends on what you want from the band, but as a soundtrack to getting well and truly caned, you can’t go far wrong.