I wasn’t planning on reviewing Dinosaur Jr.’s reunion album Farm until yesterday when I came across a 2 LP vinyl version that makes the CD absolutely pale in comparison. Before I get to that, let me also get a few cred details out of the way: I came to Dinosaur Jr. in a backwards sort of way, as I am first and foremost a fan of Lou Barlow and his post-Dino band, Sebadoh. In fact, I have not heard the early Dino albums yet (and the one post-Lou Dino Jr. album I’d heard left me flat, but I digress). Anyhow, enough friends I respect were talking reverently about the reunion album/tour to make me want to check it out. Thus I bought Farm on CD first — cool Digipack cover, four bonus tracks, good price. Win! Right?
The album is really good. Great, even. The songs and the band’s playing still remind me of a highly caffeinated version of Neil Young’s Crazy Horse playing songs from a long lost Joe Walsh-era James Gang album* (some of the Lou tunes sound like Sebadoh outtakes, actually). I like the music and it grows on you with repeated listens. But…. I hate (and I really mean HATE!) the mix (or perhaps it is the mastering) on the CD. Maybe it was brick walled in mastering. Or maybe they did a different mix for CD. I don’t know. But it sounds awful.
This becomes very clear when you listen to the 2 LP version of Farm. The sludgy wall of distortion is still there en force, but now they sound more like guitars with amps turned up to 11 than just a mass of overly compressed digital distortion. You can hear the tone of the amps. And most importantly you can actually hear Lou Barlow’s bass now amidst the din. Lou is a very creative and aggressive player, so it’d have been a shame if he’d been buried in the mix. The interplay is too tight and lovely to have be intentionally buried.
Anyhow, when you decide to buy Dinosaur Jr.’s Farm, go for the LP version (which comes with a free MP3 download, which I’m assuming sounds about the same as the CD). Plus, with the vinyl you get to enjoy the great cover art in all its gatefolded glory (very thick cardboard, too, like it was made in the ’60s!). And then turn it up to 11. You might want to warn the neighbors that it might get loud.
And now I have to start working my way back to the older Dinosaur Jr. albums. And maybe I’ll even get a new skateboard and Moto Cross bike too (check this video):
*PS: I didn’t read the copy on the www.JagJaguar.com website until after writing this — there they make many similar references describing this album, including the James Gang comparison and the desire to turn things up to 11! Clearly, we’re on the same page!