Currency Conversion: Dinosaur Jr. makes money, gets good again.

Sign up for our free newsletter

Dinosaur Jr. has, historically at least, been a pretty unmotivated band. Its members have said as much. In Michael Azerrad’s chronicle of indie-rock history Our Band Could Be Your Life, guitarist/frontman J. Mascis admitted that after Dinosaur Jr. released its two defining records—1987’s You’re Living All Over Me and 1988’s Bug—they had pretty much fulfilled their aspirations for the group. “It’s different to function without a goal than with a goal,” he told the author. “It was like ‘Well, we’re still around, now what?’” Within a couple years of Bug, the band’s original lineup dissolved; Dinosaur became a Mascis solo project, and he retired the name after a couple of saggy ’90s releases. But in 2005, Dinosaur Jr. finally found a good reason to start making an effort: money. The original members reunited and and toured behind well-received reissues of Dinosaur’s first three records. Surprisingly, cashing in led to a reunion record, 2007’s Beyond, that was just as good as anything the band released in its heyday. Farm, Dinosaur’s second post-reunion album of new material, is even better. Dinosaur Jr. has wisely chosen to ignore any ideas, trends, or technologies that it encountered in the intervening years. Instead, it gets straight back to what it has always done best—jangly alt-rock. There are, of course, guitar solos. Much of the lilting, seven-minute-long “Plans” is spent on face-scrunching fretwork by Mascis. “I Don’t Want to Go There” takes it one step further, with Mascis laying into two extended freakouts that fully justify Farm’s foggy-minded Ralph Bakshi–inspired cover art. But the lackadaisical manner that characterized the band during the ’80s hasn’t carried over to Farm. The songs are more expertly orchestrated than anything on You’re Living All Over Me. And to some extent, the tighter, more mature Dinosaur Jr. sounds strongly reminiscent of another lumbering grunge band of yore: Pearl Jam. With its looping guitar riff and catchy four-note chorus, there’s not a lot to divide album opener “Places” from the kind of stuff Eddie Vedder and Co. use to fill arenas. It would be nice if Farm could find that kind of audience. Dinosaur Jr. certainly deserves it—it’s working hard for the money these days.