Farm might lurk behind one of the most truly horrible album covers of recent years, but the fifth studio album from the original line-up of ’80s indie noise-pop troubadours Dinosaur Jr is a continuation of the return to form witnessed on 2007’s Beyond. Building on the repaired relationship that has already resulted in an ATP curatorship, J Mascics and Lou Barlow turn out 12 tunes that once again sound like the bastard child of Neil Young and Black Sabbath.
Yes, you can accuse them of going over-heavy on the axe solos (and they certainly deserve it – particularly on I Don’t Wanna Go There), but at least they wear their hearts on their record sleeves. The ’70s-heavy, folk-rock sensibilities are played out in full through the visual imagery they’ve chosen to use, as well as the aural landscape they paint. Said The People is another of the worst offenders here, but that doesn’t make it a bad track. If you didn’t like this sort of thing, you wouldn’t have come to the party in the first place.
The juxtaposition of the old and the new suffuses this effort. The second outing of the second incarnation of the band largely sounds as if they never went away, but as well as hearing the bands that influenced them here, you also hear those they influenced – from Nirvana to Nickleback and beyond.
Beyond that, the album sounds much as you want a Dinosaur Jr album to sound: noisy, melodic, chaotic and danceable in turn, with Mascis’s earnest vocals continuing to plough the field that has nourished grunge and emo over the years. It’s not hard to see why they number Sonic Youth and the late Kurt Cobain amongst their fans, nor why Dinosaur Jr have long appealed to critics and musos in proportions not matched by their commercial success.
It’s unlikely that Farm with buck that trend – their music would need to be easier to categorise than that, and they’re not about to sell out at this stage of their career. Songs such as Imagination Blind veer so far into stoner rock territory that it seems almost at odds with the rest of the album.
Gentler moments like See You stand in direct contrast to the rock-out aggression of opener Pieces, meaning that Farm is never an easy experience, though in a perfect world the catchiness of I Want You To Know would propel it up the charts in a second. As long as you don’t mind working for your alt rock fixes, however, Farm is certainly worth the effort.
As a final comment, the format warrants a special mention. For those who still prefer music buying to be a tactile experience, Farm is available as double vinyl, wrapped in the type of gatefold sleeve bands such as Yes and Caravan would be proud of – but for the more modern-minded, the package contains a voucher for a free digital download of the album. Getting vinyl onto your MP3 player doesn’t have to be a trial after all.