Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Psychedelic Pill: The Auteur Theory

Psychedelic Pill is a massively successful record. From the first to last note, you know what you're in for, and you're never let down. Neil Young's every strum, whisper, and howl are recognizable, and  again he has found the accompaniment of Crazy Horse to be the finest bed of sound on which to paint upon.

Photo: Joe Kroger
This record sounds like a long look back, starting with a gentle acoustic guitar and Young's distinctive warble - he lays it out, wondering if you read the book, if you hear the time he's took. Driftin' Back is an easing into it - all the earmarks you expect, there's no surprises, but it comes without torture, or angst. 27 minutes of the best of Neil Young - Crazy Horse is understated as always, but organic and wild enough to keep it from sounding pasteurized, or slick. If this is the soundtrack to Waging Heavy Peace, it's nearly as perfect as Young's book. Especially delicious is the voice's vibrato and the near raga mantra sermon delivered from "Old Black," Young's ancient Gibson Les Paul. This feels like home.

Photo: Joe Kroger
Pychedelic Pill is awash in a heavy flange, and the rock picks up the pace - not as desperately heavy as Young's violent explosions that nearly left him deaf in the '90s, but much more rock than Buffalo Springfield could ever muster. I can almost hear the wheels spinning in Young's head as he decided that the flanging was too much, and he chooses to include an un-effected alternate mix to end the album with - I like them both. Just lookin' for a good time, and finding it is OK, sometimes.

Cinema never quite escapes Young's grasp - he's always had one foot in the theater, painting big pictures, and telling his tales in ways to make them universal, and one foot remaining vividly planted in his own head. Ramada Inn takes us back to Neil's brilliant soundtrack work on Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man movie - but here, he inserts a lyric that tells the tale once again of his complex relationship with relationships. I can't imagine how difficult it must actually be to be Neil Young, and I'm glad he has his guitar to melt into - his solos are almost beyond poignant here. He's as expressive in his own way as Miles ever was, and it may be that he's captured his true soul with the six strings better than any other electric guitarist. When I saw the time's for these songs, I kind of cringed - now, I wonder what my hurry was, and I just hit repeat.

The D chord was surely made for Neil, and he manipulates it as deftly as ever - if you're not a guitar player, cue up the intro to Born In Ontario and you will surely know what I'm talking about. Young's lyric here is almost hokey, but it's more Mark Twain than cheesy, and  his embracing of the folk idiom is fitting. I like hearing him finally sound like he's having a great time in that damned barn.

Photo: Joe Kroger
Twisted Road is another look back at what's made NY rock for all these decades - he salutes Dylan, The Dead, Roy Orbison, Hank Williams, and Crazy Horse's refrains are perfectly welcome. Young's simplistic structures have finally claimed a space in my consciousness in a way that let's me truly enjoy, and not judge.

If you played an alien this album, they would 'get' the whole of Neil Young's life and career. It's a signature record - no leaps into foreign genres, no lapses into synaptic journeys of subconscious and hidden meanings, or hurt. She's Always Dancing is an absolutely beautiful song that sees Neil still trying to find a new palette on which to mix his paints.

Photo: Joe Kroger
For The Love Of Man is one of Young's best ballads ever. This one touches down directly in a manner unallowed perhaps even the days of Harvest Moon, and Man Needs a Maid. He's OK with things as they are, but still, he wonders why. I like this Neil Young - gone are the days of defenses and the walls, the evasions and the mystery. He may jut be human.

Photo: Joe Kroger
He ends the album with a rolling. rollicking, and rocking Walk Like A Giant. He looks back over the hopes and aspirations that gathered so hopefully in Los Angeles in the late '60s, and how far they all fell from the promise, but he's survived, persevered and come out whistling on the other side with his faith and optimism still intact. He's still a big kid with an ink pen, a loud guitar, and a dream - life's like that. It sometimes takes us forty, or fifty years to get back to being who we were when we started. This is a fun, exciting piece of big, big rock.

This record is fucking fabulous. Neil Young is finally fucking fabulous. Crazy Horse? Yup - fucking fabulous.

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