Neil Young – [Album]

Neil Young – [Album]

Friday, 03 July 2015

Neil Young + Promise of The Real
The Monsanto Years
Can we all just agree to stop picking on Neil Young for a couple minutes, readers? Granted, the singer has left himself open for lots of critical abuse over the years (the most recent event that nobody wants to talk about is Pono), but there’s a time and place for everything and trying to rip apart The Monsanto Years on the basis of past errors isn’t it.

So is Young’s thirty-sixth studio album a great concept album? Absolutely not – the concept (critisizing agribusiness Monsanto) is far too soft to sustain any real appeal – but as long as listeners approach it as just a collection of new songs which angle their way in a new direction from Young’s norm, they’ll discover that there is some great music to be found on this album.

The first thing listeners hear as “A New Day For Love” opens the album will knock them clean over, as long as they keep an open mind and let it happen. There, Young stomps out majestically as he has been doing since be first hooked up with Crazy Horse in 1969 – but the sound to which he does it immediately feels more distinctly country-infused than epically inclined, and also more fluid and flexible than Crazy Horse’s angular jams. Because of that, on that first track, Neil Young sounds less like himself and more like the rest of the alt-country crowd (including but not limited to Wilco, Son Volt, Uncle Tupelo and Blitzen Trapper) than he ever has – even to those artists who name him as an inspiration. The guitar figures presented on “A New Day For Love” are slick and streamlined, and there is no distinctly “Young-ian” presence (read: no broken-sounding guitar solo) anywhere within the performance.

Because of the significant difference asserted right away, plenty of Young’s fans will be turned off right away but, for the open-minded who are willing to stay with the record, they’ll find some interesting tracks which deviate beautifully from the singer’s standard. Tracks like “Big Box,” the almost detestably saccarine-splashed “A Rock Star Bucks A Coffee Shop “Workin’ Man” all take an ever-so-slightly skewed approach both to each song’s subject matter as well as Young’s typical way of addressing such social ills (“Big Box” takes a truly succulant shot at large, faceless retail outlets with satirical lines like, “Corporations have feelings, corporations have soul/ that’s why they’re like people: harder to control” while “A Rock Star Bucks A Coffee Shop” actually tries to be hated between likes like “I want a cup of coffee but I don’t want a GMO/ I like to start my day off without helping Monsanto” and the ironically pop-infused rhythm figure which drives the song and “Working Man”  is the closest to a formulaic Neil Young song on the album – but also makes no bones about the fact that it’s formulaic) to arrive at a great rock experience while simultaneously being a commentary on “a great rock experience” – in effect, it’s meta-rock. Of course, because there is such a next-level bent to the album, it’s going to alienate some listeners (sometimes too much ‘thinking man’ is just too much), but more bookish minds will appreciate Young’s desire to both play to younger audiences as well as take a cheap shot or two at them. It’s not the finest-honed statement the singer has ever made, but it does have some good moments.


The Monsanto Years is out now. Buy it here on Amazon.

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