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Neil Young & Crazy Horse

Psychedelic Pill

Neil Young & Crazy Horse
6
There's a level of trepidation that accompanies every new Neil Young release lately, as if we who revere him now perceive him as a relative we're being forced to care for in their old age. The sad truth is that, while Young remains as electrifying as ever on stage, especially with Crazy Horse, the quality of his songwriting has been in steep decline since the mid-'90s. Albums like Are You Passionate?, Living With War, Fork in the Road and even 2010's Daniel Lanois collaboration, Le Noise, are forgotten almost as soon as they're released, written off not unlike the ramblings of Clint Eastwood addressing an empty chair. And like Eastwood, Young's untouchable straight-talking reputation enables him to get away with it. Psychedelic Pill comes mere months after Americana — Young & the Horse's bizarre take on public domain folk songs — and in conjunction with a memoir, Waging Heavy Peace. In true Young fashion, calling the album Psychedelic Pill is an inside joke: he has admitted that for the past two years, he has been completely sober for the first time in his adult life. The effect it's had on his writing is dramatic, and what we get on Psychedelic Pill are stream-of-consciousness attempts ("Driftin' Back"), along with musings on the grim reality of old age ("Ramada Inn") and the regrets that come with it ("Walk Like A Giant"). Then there's "Born in Ontario," which sounds paid for by the provincial tourism board, and "Twisted Road," another walk down memory lane that ultimately goes nowhere. Title track and "She's Always Dancing" are both standard, tossed-off Crazy Horse rockers, leaving "For the Love of Man" as the album's high point. Written for his wheelchair-bound son, Ben, here Young fully displays the yearning spirituality that only comes in flashes now when he steps outside of himself. It's a stunningly compact, Brian Wilson-like performance, which makes up for an hour of overindulgence, even though that's Crazy Horse's stock-in-trade. But how much longer can Young keep rewriting "Cowgirl in the Sand"? Stay tuned though; he still sounds a long way from being finished. (Warner)
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