Full disclosure: Dead Meadow and I have a history together. It was the summer of 2004 and my then-girlfriend/now-wife traveled to Chicago for what would be our first road trip together. To be honest, I had already planned to go there; I had a ticket to the Seurat exhibit and noticed the Dead Meadow was playing at a small club that same weekend, so a full agenda was set before I extended an invitation to her.
Like a big shot, I tried to impress her by cramming everything that I could in the course of a day and wiped her out to the point where she was passed out from exhaustion before the doors of the club even opened.
I didn’t see Dead Meadow that weekend.
I still reminder her about that “sacrifice” to this day, but we’re still together and our family is now a quartet.
Meanwhile, Dead Meadow has gone from a quartet to a power trio, but when your inspirations are Blue Cheer and E-Z Widers, less can be more.
Unfortunately, Dead Meadow has lost sight of the former inspiration with their fifth album, Old Growth, and has settled for an album of gentle swaying blooze rock. There’s nothing on it that comes close to the Celestion speaker terror that had me adoring their debut. Instead, Old Growth plods along with the same intensity as chasing a joint with a bottle of NyQuil.
There are moments, particularly in the album’s first half, when things get somewhat interesting. The opener, “Ain’t Got Nothin’ To Go Wrong,” actually points to a promising effort with its hypnotic guitar solo that’s drench in equal parts echo and wah-wah.
But from that point forward, Old Growth turns into nothing more than a somnambulist soundtrack that’s as exciting as hitting the “snooze” button on your alarm clock. The next two songs feature an almost identical guitar rhythm and a reoccurring vocal phrasing that’s heavy on Jason Pierce ambivalence after a long night of skin-popping. And, no shit, there are a few more tracks that implement nearly identical guitar patterns that, if it weren’t for some strategic changes in key, could easily put the listener in a joint-dropping state of déjà-vu.
There were reports of how Old Growth was recorded in, not one, but two different locations reportedly overrun with supernatural haunts and strange occurrences. After listening to it, you’ll be wishing that one of those ghosts could have scared up some fucking excitement.