Neil Young - Living With War
Nine original compositions recorded in just six days. He borrows liberally from the pen of Dylan for two of these tunes, 'Roger And Out' being 'Knocking On Heavens Door' and the originals of 'Flags Of Freedom' clearly based somewhere in the past, 'Chimes Of Freedom', anybody? The other seven tunes more or less each have the same distorted, chugging riff as each other, but we were never expecting 'Living With War' to be a work of art, were we? As a document of its times it works better, it will always be tied into the events from which it came. It's both a critical document of the Bush era and a rallying cry. As for borrowed and recycled melodies, fair enough, Young himself would likely say guilty as charged. It's not really the point of the record, yet the energy and commitment is never in doubt. This energy means something like 'After The Garden' is utterly believable and even with the very familiar sound and melodic strands, it's dictinctive enough as a song overall to be a very pleasing album opener. The lilt and hopeful sound of the title tune is of course a misnomer, the lyrics have no such confusion to them. These two strands work well. Young knows the record can't just be declarative statements, it's also got to be good rock n roll, and it is. It's more satisfying than the mans previous rock n roll set, 'Greendale' without a doubt. Probable not intended to be a lasting momument within his vast catalogue, though. The projects inception and quick rise to realisation ( it was within the shops in a month of being written and recorded ) sees to that.
'Families' at just over two minutes is the shortest song here, yet also the one that manages to lodge itself within my memory banks the most successfully. 'Let's Impeach The President' may well be more newsworthy, yet 'Families' just hits me harder. It's also perhaps looking at the wider picture of war and politics - those ultimately affected. 'Looking For A Leader' mentions 'may be black or a woman after all', a reference to the two prospective democratic presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. With the gospel backing vocals and a committed performance from Young, it's also a highlight of the album. We forward to the close, a rendition of 'America The Beautiful'. A massed choir and quite affecting, although ultimately an indulgence afforded to Neil by the message the album is giving out overall and rather dubious as far as repeated listening is concerned. Still, it's taken a seasoned campaigner such as Neil Young to make a stance. Rock music these days is often too inward looking to realise or risk looking at what's actually going on in this big, wide world of ours.
After The Garden / Living With War / The Restless Consumer / Shock And Awe / Families / Flags Of Freedom / Let's Impeach The President / Lookin' For A Leader / Roger And Out / America The Beautiful