"I can't tell if we're running from, or coming to," muses Dead Meadow singer/guitarist Jason Simon on the folky, elegiac "Ain't Got Nothing (To Go Wrong)," his decentered voice dripping with idiosyncratic weariness. He could easily be opening up to a lover, making a statement about the accelerating decline of Western civilization or summing up his band's lack of genre identity. The Washington, D.C.-based group began with reverb-saturated stoner metal before shifting to reverb-soaked stoner-psychedelic rock for 2005's Feathers. This month's new album, Old Growth, (Matador) finds the group dabbling lysergically in country, blues and straight-up rock, like Black Mountain sans estrogen, with a bigger gravity bong and more dynamite kind of bud. They are fully and finally, it seems, themselves: bold as they are inviting, dipping slurred platitudes and political complaints into open-armed tunes. "Between Me and the Ground" takes aim at the Bush administration ("All across this great earth, you cheat and you fight, I bet you sleep easier than I do at night") with a radiant motif that vacillates between lamb-calm and lion-tough. "The Great Deceiver" sports a country-rock gait, with easygoing, twangy riff crunches and pedal-steel drones moving at porch-swing speed as Simon — who, I suspect, idolizes Perry Farrell — spins a bluesy yarn about a woman who finds Satan everywhere she turns.
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