Neil Young - Psychedelic Pill
Opening your new album with a twenty-seven minute long track and then including another two that break the fifteen minute barrier is never going easy to review - perhaps a deliberate two-fingers from Neil at critics for his more esoteric album works? You could say quite reasonably that a lot of the songs here feel under-written, snippets of ideas surrounded by jamming and guitar solos. You could also state that this is one of the 'most' Crazy Horse, Neil Young and Crazy Horse albums he's ever made. You could state that even though it's called 'Psychedelic Pill' that there are few sings of drink and drugs and the type of atmosphere that made 'Tonight's The Night' so alluring, for instance. There is something else going on here, a live sound achieved and Neil wants you to listen to this via the high-definition Blu-ray audio version, or at least the vinyl version. He has sequenced the album and put together the songs in such a way picking out one track to stick on your IPOD is a fairly pointless endeavour. Even the title track fails as a central track, it fails to give over what the album overall is about - no individual track does. Taken together with 2012's earlier Neil Young release Americana, and taken together with the book Neil is writing - this is very much a biographical, yet somehow 'state on now' album release.
'Driftin' Back' as a song is over after about three minutes when Neil decides to allow the band to kick in, we're going electric for jamming around the tracks main themes. Fifteen minutes later you probably feel enough is enough, but onwards for another twelve minutes anyway, just because Neil and Crazy Horse can. Yes, 'Driftin' Back' is a single three minutes worth of material, presented to a listener at mini-album length, yet strangely, rarely gets boring, the repetition becomes hypnotic. Back to digital, your MP3 set on random, if 'Dritin' Back' came on in the middle of a playlist at a party, it would be a hard sell for anyone, Neil Young fanatic included. Memorable improvised lyric - 'Gonna get me a hip-hop haircut', yeah, that's worth waiting some twenty odd minutes for - maybe! The title track meanwhile has some treated sound-around, kind of windy effects - probably aiming for psychedelia but this modest, chugging rocker would probably have been better off without these effects. 'Ramada Inn' runs to nearly seventeen minutes, is probably a better 'song', certainly lyrically than 'Dritin' Back' yet lacks the never-ending charm of that particular musical delight. Still, wonderful guitar solos abound throughout 'Ramada Inn', complete with fuzz, echo and intent.
'I Was Born In Ontario' is the first track that resembles anything like a proper song, a such, it's a fun way to end the first CD. Oh, yes - we have a whole second CD to come! 'Listen to The Dead on the radio' sings Neil during the mid-tempo, faintly entertaining and swinging 'Twisted Road'. We're not deviating by the way sonically so far during the album, all live sounding, fuzzy and surprisingly strong vocally, turning back the years is Neil, it sounds very mid to late Seventies Young vintage, 'For The Love Of Man' is a ballad and something of a welcome sonic pause, although Neil has done this kind of thing better in the past, 'She's Always Dancing' is a weaker moment, loud and serving much the same purpose as the entire album thus far, just not quite enough of a tune, or with enough aggression to make it entirely worthwhile. We finally leave this journey with 'Walk Like A Giant', a sixteen minute monster of fuzzy guitar attack good enough to sit in any Neil Young set-list. Yes, you really do need to listen to an hour plus of music to get to the album highlight, another anti-digital age listener swipe from Mr Neil Young? Nice vocal harmonies a feature, the guitars shine from the off and the lyrical theme of 'Walk Like A Giant' suits as guitar solos shoot into the back of the imaginary arena that sonically is 'Psychedelic Pill' all over - you can hear the echo, see the band and feel the vibrations.
Driftin' Back / Psychedelic Pill / Ramada Inn / Born in Ontario / Twisted Road / She's Always Dancing / For the Love of Man / Walk Like a Giant