Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Psychedelic Pill
Difficult though it is to imagine, someday a new Neil Young album will be a thing of the past. Let’s hope that day is a long way off, because he’s just delivered yet another left-field classic. The structure of Psychedelic Pill resembles previous Crazy Horse collaborations such as Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere and Zuma. A bunch of long songs – some really, really long – and shorter filler tracks. On those albums, some of the fillers are great. Think of ‘Drive Back’ or ‘Barstool Blues’. Here, the alternative wah-wah-free version of ‘Psychedelic Pill’ has a nice energy, but the others are fairly uninspired. If Neil Young had written a song called ‘Born In Ontario’ in 1974, it would have been mordant, memorable and still officially unreleased. In 2012, it’s a clichéd reflection on times past. But it doesn’t matter. The real interest lies in the long songs. At ‘only’ 8.33, ‘She’s Always Dancing’ is the benjamin of this group. It’s also the loosest and most up-tempo of them. ‘Ramada Inn’ is the most standard, if there is a standard for songs that last nearly 17 minutes. It’s like a cut from Ragged Glory. Crazy Horse are rock solid as the rhythm section, while Old Black blurts out one phrase after another. ‘Walk Like A Giant’ also clocks in at over 16 minutes, though the last four resemble Arc-like noodling. From the title onwards, it’s perhaps the most self-consciously long song on the album. It sets off pretty steadily, but at a certain point tries to get into ‘Like A Hurricane’ mode. It doesn’t quite make it, but it’s great to hear the guys try. The standout, though, is ‘Driftin’ Back’. It starts with a brief acoustic segment, but soon slips into a dream-like electric meditation and stays there for 26 glorious minutes. We’re in ‘Change Your Mind’ territory from Sleeps With Angels. Which makes sense. In 1994, Neil Young was thinking about death. Then, it was Kurt Cobain’s. Now, it’s his own. Sometimes this makes him maudlin. Other times it makes him angry. On ‘Driftin’ Back’, he gives out about anything that happens to come to mind. MP3s. Picasso wallpaper. But he channels it all calmly, yet forcefully, and to good effect. There can’t be many more Neil Young albums on the horizon and some of those will be duds. But this is a great late-era Neil Young & Crazy Horse set and for that we should be thankful.