Old Growth is the sixth full length album from Dead Meadow, and the first one I’ve spent any substantial time with. This isn’t due to a predisposed prejudice against them, but mostly because the quest to work my way backwards through all of Joe Walsh’s solo records is taking longer than I thought it would. And hell, there are only so many hours in the week with which to stay on top of the new jams, as it were. Considering their current popularity with the music realm’s glitterati, as well as their casually being referenced in a recent episode of The Wire, my appointment with Dead Meadow is clearly overdue by anyone’s estimation.
Loosely perceived (by me) as a “stoner rock” band, the feel of this record is considerably less aggro than what I anticipated. In the age of so many modern ensembles chasing the legacy of The Groundhogs, Flower Travellin’ Band, or any other subculturally significant guitar heavyweights, Dead Meadow’s predilection for a more measured kind of fuzz is a welcome addition to the menu. (Years ago, a bunch of Jersey lowlifes calling themselves False Front recorded a pair of stellar albums for the Shimmy Disc label which created a hash-hazy tone not unlike the lion’s share of Old Growth’s 12 tracks.) As such, Dead Meadow’s non-reliance on skull battering riffs has freed them up to create a solid album punctuated by surprisingly coherent vocals and more subtle instrumentation lurking behind the languid guitars at the front of the line.
Dead Meadow’s modus operandi is thoroughly listenable and well played psych-rock that, if anything, suffers from its plain lack of fireworks. “Till Kingdom Come” is really the only song that stands apart from the pack, thanks to its strident guitar leads and orchestral underpinnings. The rest of the tracks, while persuasively put, come and go with an effect that’s distantly brooding at best. Were I scoring a movie starring retrogressive burnout teenagers, this would be ideal soundtrack music to a gripping scene... in which the protagonist falls asleep on the floor with his girlfriend.