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ARCHIVES | 2008 | MUSIC | DEAD MEADOW


Biography

The design of their LP is clear: Dead Meadow is mainly influenced by the sixties and seventies’ “hippie’s rock”. They’re not pale copies of old legends for the cause. Far of that, the band plays a contemporary music with a transposition of those years’ spirit. Like if their ability has to be proved, let me tell you that their 2 firsts albums have been released on a label founded by an expert (Joe Lally of Fugazi): Tollota Records. The following will be released on Matador. John Peel himself, in 2002, pressed the BBC to accept for the first time a Peel Session outside their own studios (in US, at the Fugazi studio)!

 

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Dead Meadow’s music style isn’t easy to define, there's really no word to describe precisely their music. Some tried with "psych-funk sludge" or "blues-folk tunes" to "barbiturate space-rock". Of course, it doesn’t mean a lot but a lot of people consider now that Dead Meadow is the ultimate incarnation of the psychedelic revival! So let’s visit their discography to make your own idea.

 

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Washington based, Dead Meadow start an impressive tour early February which will lead them to play to both sides of the Atlantic ocean until late May. They know it, their talent is much more revealed on stage. That’s why Dead Meadow will do more than 70 gigs, none in DC but one at the Rhâââ Lovely Festival this 29th of March. Till then, have a good rest, prepare your flowered shirts, stop shaving and let your beard grow: Dead Meadow is on the way!

 

Discography

-) 2000 : 'Dead Meadow' (Tolotta Records/Planaria Records).

Prog Archives's point of view :

It is truly a feat the music this ear shattering heavy and monolithic is so relaxing and organic at the same time. And to imagine that it came from the DC scene, where hardcore punk was the standard is even more puzzling. Dead Meadow see to have came straight from outer space. Their music echoes of a spiritual vibe that is absolutely otherworldly. However in reality they are just a bunch of kids with a love of Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer, Led Zeppelin, as well as the surreal imagery that exist in their lyrics.

The album opens with Sleepy Silver Door, which is powered by a riff that is as power as it is beautiful. The songs drones along, drums plodding along at a classic stoner rock tempo as singer Jason Simon guiding us along on a surreal journey through mysterious lands masterfully illustrated by the groups instrumental prowess. The albums dreamlike qualities are perfectly demonstrated, before the Blue Cheer style boogie of Indian Bones. Yet even throughout the faster moment of the album, the psychedelic and dreamlike quality is maintained.

Jason Simon's masterfully played guitar solos are quite possibly the highlight of the album. His use of the wah metal to add to texture and feel is amazing. He treats the pedal like a child rather than just another effect to blast at the audience. The rhythm section of Steve Kille and Mark Laughlin are also masters of their craft, creating the powerhouse that drives Dead Meadow's sound.

So basically you'd be doing yourself a lot of good by checking out Dead Meadow, they're a band every fan of psychedelic music needs to hear. I honestly cannot imagine myself being a true fan of psychedelic without having heard this band, and this album perfectly represent their earth shattering sound.

Michael Crown - site.

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-) 2001 : 'Howls from the Hills ' (Tolotta Records).

All Music Guide's point of view :

Hailing from the nation's capital and looking rather like the teenage cast from the cult film Rushmore, Dead Meadow garnered many an accolade with its first album's surprisingly accomplished and highly authentic brand of psychedelic rock. The young musicians' subtle yet dazzling technical interplay lies at the core of this formula, where power chords and all other such outbursts are usually hinted at, but rarely fully vented through the soft haze of the group's stoner musings. With its flowing grooves and measured, slow stomp, the band's self-titled debut was a discreetly seductive affair, slowly creeping up on the listener when least expected. Quickly released later the same year, second opus Howls from the Hills reprises this same M.O., with only slightly inferior results. Solid opener "Drifting Down Streams" lazily swims into gear over its eight-minute sprawl and the more concise Zeppelin-inspired "Dusty Nothing" delivers some early fireworks, but occasionally plodding tracks like "Jusiamere Farm" and "The White Worm" come off rather like first album leftovers. It would be easy to peg these underwhelming moments as unfocused, yet "focus" is a tricky word when describing Dead Meadow, since a seemingly casual (or possibly carefully orchestrated) lack thereof is an essential component of the group's unique identity. And, like its predecessor, Howls from the Hills' best trips are saved for last, and include the haunting acoustics of "The One I Don't Know," the epic "One and Old," and the excellent "The Breeze Always Blows." A strong effort all around, Howls from the Hills makes up for its occasional shortcomings with a palpable sense of promise, marking this as a band to watch.

- site.

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-) 2002 : 'Got Live If You Want It' (Bomp Records/The Committee to Keep Music Evil).

All Music Guide's point of view :

An interesting and slightly unexpected release on the Brian Jonestown Massacre's label -- doubtless because Dead Meadow opened for that band, whose Anton Newcombe ended up providing the tapes -- Got Live if You Want It! is, indeed, a show recording from a date in early 2002. The combination of sludge, drift and, in Jason Simon's singing, a surprisingly easy-to-grasp melodicism that defines the group stands out pretty well here, and, while long-time fans might debate the virtues of these takes with the studio ones, this is definitely a great starting point for those new to the group. Most of the selections come from the self-titled EP -- the only Howls from the Hills song is a mighty fine "Dusty Nothing" -- and, as befits the band's oldest songs, they sound well-seasoned in the group's capable hands. Simon's got it down as both a good singer and an even better guitarist; the odd semi-whine in his vocals might initially be a touch off-putting, but, by steering clear of more clichéd bellows or roars, it's a great contrast to the heavy-psych mania that the trio kicks up. Although there are some understandable Black Sabbath comparisons to be made, it's better to think of this music as coming from the moody smoke of that band's era other than the Birmingham monsters specifically -- plenty of wah-wah, just enough shivering semi-funk rhythms, and a feeling that there is no such thing as too much echo. "Good Moanin'" and the concluding "Rocky Mountain High" are two of the best numbers living up to that approach. Meanwhile, "Sleepy Silver Door" lives up to its title beautifully; it's trippy in the best sense of the word, as Simon's vocals cascade over the band's full shuffling downward slide.

- site.

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-) 2003 : 'Shivering King & Others' (Matador Records).

Pitchfork's point of view :

"DR. STEERE!!!" The backhoe shrugged mechanically in the student's hand as she cried out for the professor to come and see what she had forcefully unearthed. Though Steere and his group had been digging in the river basin for the past 30 days, aside from a few common artifacts, the main object of their search continued to elude them.

Taking care to remove the crystallized sludge surrounding the prize, he finally saw it-- the skeletal remains of what appeared to be a musically oriented tribe, known as Dead Meadow, if one followed the stencil on the still half buried drum set, huddled around a central egg-crate of ancient vinyl albums and compact discs. Cataloguing the records to maintain provenience, the dig-team ran into the exact same stratigraphical paradox that Dr. Steere had predicted: in an era of music where fast-paced dance tracks and flashy production techniques ruled, how did it come to pass that a collection like this could have influenced this group of musicians? While it was no surprise to find Blue Cheer's Vincebus Eruptum, Jimi Hendrix's Axis: Bold As Love, and Led Zeppelin II in the cinched arms of a creature a few meters below Dead Meadow's remains, it was quite a shock that any group of their time was swallowing and potentially outputting this style of music.

A great boon to his research, Dr. Steere soon discovered that atop the assortment of music was a compact disc produced by Dead Meadow themselves, the group's Brendan Canty-engineered third album, Shivering King and Others. Finding an old player he had recently salvaged from an electronics boutique, Steere was eager to hear how well-- if at all-- the group was able to integrate and build upon the work of the late 60s/early 70s, an era they appeared to hold on high.

"I Love You Too" certainly seemed to encapsulate the musical ideals of their inspiration, building upon a heavy Sabbath riff before Jason Simon's nasal vocals threaded deep into the mix with lyrics characteristic of the fantasy-filled air about the band. "Babbling Flower", "Everything's Going On", and "Good Moanin'" exhibited a similar style of stomp-and-circumstance, outfitting their sound with wah-heavy guitar solos worthy of a dirty Dinosaur Jr., and a tinge of far-eastern derived psychedelic rock.

Steere choked back a cry of surprise as the opening chords of "Wayfarers All" heralded the quiet and unexpected onslaught of an acoustic track isolated amidst the growing homogeneity of "The Whirlings" and the meaty drone of "Golden Cloud". The track put together the missing pieces of the band's problematic and massive Neil Young jones, particularly the worn grooves of Zuma. Though incredibly short, the song manages to appropriately prepare the listener for the similar acoustic leanings of "Shivering King", exercising some of the prettiest harmonic ornamentation found on the album. This initially light melodic line is eventually overtaken by an undulating drum pattern and fuzzy-bass that serves as an interesting counterpoint to the introduction of various high-end guitar techniques.

Jaw resting on fist, Dr. Steere grew weary near the end of the composition, nodding off at least twice during the fourteen minutes that comprise the final two tracks "Heaven" and "Raise the Sails". While the sitar sounds of the former and the Sonic Boom-drone of the latter did create an interesting soundscape for the album's climax, the sameness of the music had become irritating after an hour. Steere eventually found himself questioning the group's reasons not to trim some of the excess fat, but he was won over by the consolation that such invariability only further highlighted the musical bond the group has with the virtuosic pomp of its idols.

Weaned on the tenets of "Dinosaur Rock", Dead Meadow does put too much stock in the belief that more truly is more, resulting in drawn-out passages not unlike those that plagued nearly all of the artists they worship. But they succeed in their drive to not merely reproduce but improve, beefing up their sound with influences ranging from post-rock to black-metal, proving that one doesn't need an army of synthesizers and fashion consultants. Dead Meadow embodies the modus behind archaeology: in order to move forward, it's sometimes necessary to look back.

Andrew Bryant - site.

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-) 2005 : 'Feathers' (Matador Records).

Pitchfork's point of view :

Oh, so Santa Cruz is Freak City, right? And Vancouver is kooky as all hell. And L.A. And Brooklyn. Palm Desert got acid rock on lock. And D.C. No? D.C. is fucking Fugazi, man. D.C. is Bad Brains. Dismemberment Plan. Jawbox. Ginuwine. How can a city of Banana Republican pencil-pushers even hope to compete in such a heated psych-rock market? Here's how:

- The mayor was filmed smoking crack with a hooker, and was still re-elected after he did his six-month bid. - There is a GIANT PHALLUS poking out of the ground across the street from the president's house. - The basketball franchise's mascot is a Cubist Wizard. - Rock Creek Park, a lush valley winding through the city, is a great place to hide dead bodies. - Mk-Ultra - Tranny Hoover - Reflecting Pool

There may not be a stranger city on Earth, which is why a band like Dead Meadow existing in the District is not at all surprising. With their fourth album, Feathers, Dead Meadow add another guitarist and venture further outside their 60s influences to create a spacious, hypnotic album that distinguishes them from their stoner- and psych-rock contemporaries.

Dead Meadow owes considerable debts to Sabbath, Zeppelin, and Blue Cheer, among others, and the band has always provided a reminder that music like theirs ditched reality in favor of vespertine s?ances and distorted idylls. Feathers, though, takes those same influences and strains them through shoegaze standards like Ride's Nowhere and the Verve's A Storm in Heaven, augmenting the sludge with gauzy melodies.

On previous albums, singer-guitarist Jason Simon seemed to get caught up in his own riffs, a tendency often found in the dubiously conglomerated stoner rock sub-genre. Whether the presence of new guitarist Cory Shane provoked the change or not, Simon is more willing to loose his grip on his guitar, as evidenced on the extended silences on opener "Let's Jump In" and the ebb and flow of "Get Up On Down". If the riff death grip is what you're into, don't worry. "Untitled" is a 13-plus-minute ogre that will stomp the shit out of your crappy computer speakers. Its path is cleared by the curious "Through The Gates Of The Sleepy Silver Door", a drum-pummeling of Yoshimi proportions that scrubs any coherent thought you might be having at the time of listening.

The other big change on Feathers is Simon's voice. In the past, his nasal whine could grate if it weren't completely drowned out by a slight turn of the volume. "At Her Open Door", a slide guitar ramble that leaves plenty of room for Simon's singing, illustrates the subtle alteration. His relaxed delivery is a about an octave lower than normal, and it actually sounds like he's able to force air through his nostrils. "Stacy's Song" is an even greater improvement, slapping a bit of echo on Simon's breathy meanderings, which are downright manly.

Feathers may not have the heft of Dead Meadow's other albums, but it's easily its most listenable and satisfying from end to end. Along with the mountaintop bellowing of Comets On Fire and the riverside rollicking of Black Mountain, Dead Meadow have established themselves nicely as the bookish Tolkein fellows wandering the forest of the mystical neo-psych hinterland. Look at all that nature! Comets on the mountains, mountains by the river, and meadows in the forest...so pretty. Dead Meadow may not inspire the kids at Ft. Reno like Fugazi. They probably won't keep white folks clutching their spouses like Bad Brains. But I'll be damned if they don't do a fine job of updating the kind of music that made G-Dubs nauseous as a college student, and that's really all you can ask of a band from D.C.

Peter Macia - site.

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-) 2008 : 'Old Growth' (Matador Records).

Pitchfork's point of view :

I used to know a bunch of indie-rap kids in Baltimore who claimed they didn't listen to any rock music other than the Stooges and Dead Meadow. To them, Dead Meadow made (I'm paraphrasing from hazy memory) "blunted head-nod shit." And so, for at least a few, the D.C. band's endlessly languid psyche-rock riffage made them functionally pretty similar to, say, Pete Rock. Like Pete Rock, Dead Meadow have spent years working variations on an introverted thump, switching up their endless-repeat rhythmic ebb and flow just enough to stay interesting. Running out of ideas has never really been a problem for these dudes, since ideas are not their stock and trade. They make a dreamy shoegaze-informed strain of early-1970s blooz-choogle power-trio rock, and that's all they've ever made. But now they're 10 years and five albums into their existence, and at this point, it's hard to stay patient with this stuff. At their live shows, Dead Meadow sound gorgeously heavy for the first 20 minutes or so and then progressively more boring for every minute afterward. By now, their albums are starting to work the same way, and that's sort of a problem. Since the release of 2005's Feathers, the band has relocated from D.C. to L.A. and returned to being a trio after additional guitarist Cory Shane came and went. Listening to Old Growth, though, there's barely any indication that anything has ever changed for this band. They've curbed some of their most indulgent impulses; there's no equivalent here to "Untitled", the 14-minute jam that ended Feathers. And they've made a few fruitful inroads into Espers-esque acoustic acid-folk; the vaguely Middle Eastern flourishes of "Seven Seers", in particular, stand out from an otherwise indistinguishable set of watery ambling riffage. It's weird how Stephen McCarty's drums seem to bang harder when they sound like they're being played on a phone book rather than on actual drums. For the most part, though, Old Growth is exactly what this band has always done. The guitars lazily sprawl skyward, the bass burbles steadily, the cymbals splash. As autopilot as this band can be, there's always something there: A nice longing vocal melody, a beautifully assured guitar solo, a droning Mellotron that sets everything else off just right. But the record is dominated by nodded-out midtempo chugs like "I'm Gone" and "The Great Deceiver" and "Hard People/Hard Times", the last of which features some awfully incongruously angry protest lyrics even as the music exudes something less than apoplectic rage. Dead Meadow can write songs like these in their sleep, and they probably do. Tidal drift is nothing new to this band. They've never made anything that much resembles metal, mostly because they've always buried their Sabbath-stomp riffs under layer upon layer of sleepy reverb and because Jason Simon's voice is a dead ringer for Jason Pierce of Spiritualized's icy nasal monotone. Inertia's always been there in the music, but it's never made its presence felt quite as much as it does on Old Growth. And so the album's standout moment is the only one where they show some teeth. "'Till Kingdom Come" is a slow, woozy jam, and nothing immediately sets it apart from anything else here. But then you notice that the central riff is genuinely heavy, that the band seems locked-in and alive. Drugs and diffusion will always be big parts of Dead Meadow, but those things can exist alongside discipline and purpose. It'd be nice if they just seemed a little more, I don't know, awake.

Tom Breihan - site.

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Audio

See their myspace for a few tracks.

 

Video

Dead Meadow - At Her Open Door

Dead Meadow- What Needs Must Be

 

Web

-) Official site.
-) Myspace.
-) Tolotta Records.
-) Planaria Recordings.
-) Matador Records.
-) Bomp Records.
-) The Committee to Keep Music Evil.