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the rock i dig the most ’09: Dinosaur Jr.

January 25, 2010

It occurred to me while listening to Farm for seemingly the 183rd time since it was released that Dinosaur Jr. are the George Foreman of Rock. George Foreman really had no business coming back to boxing at nearly 40 years old, well past his prime and apparently just looking for a big payday. Many bands have reformed under these circumstances, and while it’s fun to go see them, it’s never really as good as you remember it. Foreman, though, to everyone’s surprise, went ahead and won the heavyweight title in 1994 at the age of 45. Not only did he become heavyweight champion of the world (regaining the title he lost to Muhammad Ali twenty years earlier), but in the same year, he launched the George Foreman grill. This might be the greatest single year that any human being in the history of earth has ever experienced…but that may or may not be another post. For now, I’ll stay focused on Dinosaur Jr.  2009’s Farm and 2007’s Beyond are Dinosaur Jr.’s 1994 (even though they’re both far better than the record J Mascis actually did release as Dinosaur Jr. in ’94).

A few years ago when J Mascis reformed Dinosaur Jr. with original members Lou Barlow and Murph, I thought, “That’s cool. I’ll definitely check that out.” I certainly wasn’t expecting Dinosaur Jr. to be an even better band now than they were the first time around. Yet, to everyone’s surprise, that is exactly what has happened. Beyond was among the best records of ’07 and Farm is even better than Beyond. J Mascis’ guitar again remains front and center, just as it should be, overdriven, buzzing, crunching and churning some of the poppiest melodies I heard all year. Juxtaposing the sheer rock ‘n’ roll is J’s voice. Sounding like a depression-ridden, broken, beaten man cutting his vocals after being awoken in the middle of the night, his damaged drawl lays a wash of sadness on these lyrically remorseful, but for the most part musically upbeat, songs. It’s a dynamic that really shouldn’t work at all. Sort of like a washed up boxer winning the title while simultaneously endorsing an electric grill that drains fat from your burgers shouldn’t have worked. Yet not only does it work, it’s fucking awesome.

I came of age in the ‘90s. I know I’m supposed to recognize Lou Barlow as an underrated genius and sing the praises of Sebadoh and Folk Implosion, and granted some of that stuff is decent, but Lou Barlow isn’t the reason I listen to Dinosaur Jr.  When he got booted from the band, I still bought the records he didn’t play on and liked most all of them. But there is no argument that the band’s best records are the one’s he and Murph play on. In fact, Farm is probably the best thing the band has ever done, including their late-‘80s/early ‘90s output. No other record has ever made me feel introspective, reflective and somewhat somber when listening to it while simultaneously leaving me overjoyed and completely rocked the fuck out.

More reasons I dig Dinosaur Jr.’s Farm:

  • J. Mascis is a living, breathing guitar god that looks like a cross between a creepy science teacher and Gandalf the Grey.
  • They made this video for possibly the catchiest track on the record:
  • The track “I Don’t Wanna Go There” and the fact that it’s nearly nine minutes in length on the record and just about half of it is guitar shredding. Dinosaur Jr. is leading the charge to assure that the indie kids come to respect the guitar solo. J owns you at the 3:27 mark:
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