Sunday, May 14, 2006

"Living with War" Pretty Damn Good

Well, thank God, I've finally had a listen to (most of) Neil Young's Living With War, and my fears that it might be some kind of Trans-type horror, filled with shallow sloganeering to boot, have proven unfounded.

The album has received excellent reviews, and while some of the critical enthusiasm is surely due to the timeliness of the "message", it mostly seems an honest response to the music itself. For one thing, Neil has brought his old Les Paul out of mothballs, and its distorted, fuzzy "jet plane in a thunderstorm" sound dominates the album (albeit without the extended soloing of old).

Top tracks on the album, IMHO obviously, include:

"Looking for a Leader", which sounds like Crazy Horse minus the second guitar, and contains my favorite lines on the album:

Maybe its Obama, but he says he's too young,
Maybe its Colin Powell, to right what he done wrong.

"Flags of Freedom", which is about a family watching their son leave for Iraq, also contains some of the strongest lyrics on the album, and references the old Bob Dylan Tune "Chimes of Freedom".

"Roger and Out" and "After the Garden" also made a strong impression, although I've only listened to each a couple of times and can't say much about them yet.

Actually, my least favorite track on the album is the best known: "Let's Impeach the President". I'm not really a fan of choirs in Rock, and the whole thing comes off as a bit of a novelty tune. Not only that, when I first heard the song, the vocal line seemed annoyingly familiar. Turns out its copped from "City of New Orleans" by Steve Goodman ("I'm the train they call The City of New Orleans...") which, given Neil's constant criticism of the Bush administration's response to the Hurricane, is actually rather clever.

Anyway, "Living With War" is certainly no embarrassment, and if you yearn for some of that old distorted fuzz from Neil's Ragged Glory and Live Rust days, its definitely worth a spin.

It will be interesting to see the Soundscan numbers that come out next week. Living With War has received an enormous amount of attention even before it was released on Friday. On the other hand, it is supremely noisy, and most of Neil's success recently has come from his quieter, folksier tunes. In any case, it isn't like he needs the money.


B said...

Nice to see I agree with a Liberal for a change! These divisive politics...

Anyway, I particularly love Neil Young's After the Garden and have awoken more than one morning with the tune in my head. And I've listened to the stream only a couple of times. Glad to see it's getting great reviews and that it's making ultra-cons quiver.

FreeThinker said...

Hey, nice review. I dig Neil Young, and I dig Living With War. I just wrote a review on my blog.

(Also, I dig Trans!)