ead Meadow once held a hallowed place in my canon of modern psych rock bands. Their particular brand of Black Sabbath outro sludge rock was more than a guilty pleasure. Not a guilty pleasure in the traditional sense (that I was embarrassed to be listening to them), but guilty, in that I felt bad about how I mistreated the band. I couldn’t hide that I wished Tony Iommi and crew had Volumes 5 through 100 stashed away in some hollowed-out pew in a mediaeval church just waiting for discovery. I had to believe that musical archaeologists would happen upon these lost works. This strange psychosis (I blame it on the spate of reissues and “lost albums” released in recent years) occupies me day and night. More enlightened souls have been known to call it conspicuous consumerism.
Listening to Dead Meadow held me over until that fateful day. It was musical methadone and I couldn’t deny it any longer. Such blatant usury is beneath a music lover such as myself. This review is my apology to Dead Meadow: I was thinking about other bands when I listened to you in the past. I was wrong. I thought you were simple-minded and good for one thing only. I’m sorry. I took you for granted. Feathers has helped me realize how I have misjudged you.
“Let’s Jump In,” the aptly-titled leadoff track, is a washed-out, Zuma-inspired groove that sets the pace for the rest of the album. One thing you can always say about Dead Meadow is that they play to their strengths—what may be monotonous to some could easily be called subtle by others. The periodic chopped Sabbath chords that interrupt the song made me wrestle with my own convictions. Why should these moments give me goosebumps? Better to skip ahead. If I was going to do this, I had to do it cold turkey.
All lazy, loping ride cymbal and layered guitars, “Get Up On Down” was my first epiphany. Psychedelic music like this could never be inspired by the fuzzboxes of the longhaired set. This was that unique brand of psych as imagined by drug-addled British youth in the late 80’s. Such a shift in perspective/inspiration/sonic palette was exactly what I needed to get out of my rut. The complexities were everywhere and not all of them could be attributed to the Sabbath/Floyd/Zep triforce. If Dead Meadow had stopped wishing upon a Sabbath star maybe I could as well.
As I shed the problems of my past I saw that I had new problems. Caveat emptor: Feathers can be at times hypnosis-inducing. The effect of this hypnosis is that many of the unique moments on the album feel like dream states you aren’t sure actually happened. Was “Stacy’s Song” really a country ballad or a strange flashback of a country ballad? And either John Bonham is sending me Morse code from heaven or “Through the Gates of the Sleepy Silver Door” was a drum solo from start to finish. I may never know. Every time I’d restart the album the process was repeated. I came to the album looking for one thing and found different textures around every corner.
A friend, Alan, asked me recently, “Don’t you think that Comets on Fire have effectively rendered Dead Meadow obsolete?” Alan, you have to stop thinking like that. If there’s one thing the 60’s taught us it’s that psychedelia comes in colors. It’s my personal goal to respect and appreciate all of them.
Reviewed by: Jonathan Forgang
Reviewed on: 2005-02-22