Dead Meadow: The Nothing They Need (xemu Records)

No new ground broken, but as reliable as ever, the US psych heavy-hitters return with a seventh installment

Released Apr 4th, 2018 via Xemu Records / By Erick Mertz
Dead Meadow: The Nothing They Need (xemu Records) Washington DC stoner/psych rockers Dead Meadow have been hanging around a hell of a long time, long enough to count themselves among the genre’s new sages. Their dank, swampy rock has morphed into a signature form since their self-titled debut, recorded and released for what amounts to spare change back in 2000. They’re melancholy and OK about that. They’re seriously guitar-focused and don’t care. They’re into a mouldy, quasi-mystical view on the world and don’t care what you think of it.

The band’s last record, 2013’s Warble Womb was hailed as a more patient approach to stoner rock than anything the band had done before. Built less around cacophonous production and a crush of noisy instrumentation, the album collected songs that suggested a greater chunk of the classic rock canon than their previous efforts. A similar sentiment could also be applied to The Nothing They Need, an album that continues to plunge hard rock’s musty catacombs, but does so with a keen eye for accessible classic rock radio influence and song craft. The eight-track recording opens on the drowsy, Keep Your Head a slow burner that is brimming over with muddled and distorted guitars. The second track, Here With The Hawk offers a bit more in the way of boogie and touches on elements of barroom country rock, a la 70’s era Crazy Horse and that vibe continues on in I’m So Glad.

What feels like a fresh take for Dead Meadow here, at least early on, is how Jason Simon’s vocals, usually one of the band’s key elements, feel restrained. On Nobody’s Home the only understandable lyrics is the title line, that laying out in a drowsy and hypnotic manner and much of the rest of the singing on the record echoes that, voice as sound instrument rather than storytelling device. My favorite tracks are the absolutely sedated, distortion drenched The Shaky Hand Is Not Mine and the longest The Light which is a soggy-eyed dreamer, built on a long, slow riff. Already, The Nothing They Need has evoked critical comparisons to Neil Young, which I think are apt, but even this is dirtier than anything he ever did. Most evocative of Young are songs like The Light which reflect how the legendary alt-country, proto-grunge artist could drain your heart with a single, bleary guitar riff.

While The Nothing They Need is a perfectly enjoyable, technically keen record, it isn’t doesn’t break any new ground for me. The band has taken five years to get here since Warble Womb and while that constitutes a massive journey from their Sabbath worshipping, riff-driven start, Dead Meadow all of a sudden finds itself on the crowded road. Previous fans of the band will enjoy a healthy rendering of folk and country, no doubt.