The Inconvenient Truth of Greendale
The inconvenient truth of Neil Young's Greendale is that he was right -- and his message is even more relevant today than upon Greendale's original release.
For some, 2003's Greendale was an incomprehensible disaster. From The Washington Post's critic David Segal on Year 2003 CDs, who labeled Greendale as the year's "most baffling critical swoon", Segal writes: "Neil Young's 'Greendale' is "a droning mess of a concept album inexplicably hailed as ingenious" and "a vanity project gone stupefyingly wrong".
For others though, Greendale was hailed as a groundbreaking concept album similar to The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Who's Tommy or Pink Floyd's 'The Wall'.
Some critics went as far as saying that Young had broken new ground by creating an entirely unique art form -- the "audio novel". From New York Times article 'Have You Heard the New Neil Young Novel?' by Madison Smartt Bell:
"Mr. Young has always been remarkable for his creative resilience, and this time he really has done something new, rendering into this combination of print and audio a novel that is surprisingly sophisticated and satisfyingly complete."
The inconvenient truth of Greendale is its uncomfortable confrontation with themes such as the power of mass media and global corporations, loss of personal freedoms and privacy, destruction of the environment, rampant fraud and corruption, an out of balance government and breakdown of the family.
From a Rolling Stone interview:
YOUNG: "This is a time, I believe, of great inner turmoil for the majority of the American people. There is a new morality coming out of this administration -- fundamentalist religious views; a holier-than-thou attitude towards the rest of the world -- that is not classically American.
I don't think Americans felt holier-than-thou in the twentieth century. We were happy and successful, with a great lifestyle. But something else is going on now. That's what Greendale is about. That's what Grandpa's problem is. He can't understand what's going on. He sees all of these things that the Patriot Act has taken away from what he feels is America."
The inconvenient truth of Greendale is that the erosion of fundamental liberties can be as gradual as a melting glacier yet suddenly reach the tipping point where the Geneva Conventions can be subverted.
From a Chicago Tribune interview:
YOUNG: "The environment is becoming a much bigger issue for today's young people than anyone thought it would be, and they're banding together much like we did in the '60s. The conditions in the world today -- the war, the rise of conservatism, the corporate monopolies, the way media has made everything about the surface impression rather than the issues underneath -- are a breeding ground for an underground the likes of which we haven't seen since Nixon was in power."
The inconvenient truth of Greendale is that freedom is not really free and comes at a very steep cost where the rules of logic and fair play have been suspended. But with the right combination of ingredients, freedom and justice for all can be achieved.
From Australia's ABC interview :
Interviewer: With Sun Green, just reflecting back on her for a moment, she obviously represents maybe the idealistic youth that hopefully still remains in the world. Are you hopeful for the generation that's coming through, say, between the ages of fifteen and thirty?
Neil Young: I have a lot of hope for them. I really do. I think as the environment and the governments around the world, the way they treat the environment, becomes more of an issue to these kids and they see that they're inheriting the fruits of these policies that are so based in the present, I think that the kids are going to rise up and we're going to be able to count on them to make a change.
Interviewer: Rise up in terms of rebellion, or maybe just replacing the leaders that are there now?
Neil Young: It can be whatever it has to be. You can call it rebellion or revolution or change or whatever. It doesn't matter what form it takes. Hopefully it's not violent, but nonetheless it has to happen. It's the way the world works; it's the way things work. So I think they're due.
They're due. They've got a lot to think about. These world trade organisation meetings and things like that that you see around the world - wherever they are these people are showing up. That's the outer fringe. There's a lot of people who are starting to figure out what's going on with these world manipulations of markets and food and all kinds of stuff and killing the environment off with not really much of a future plan.
I think kids going to college today are learning this. They're intelligent; they've got the media, they've got the internet, they've got ways of getting together they never had before. They've got all kinds of people and eventually there's going to be some superheroes come out of there that are going to start movements. It's gonna happen."
The inconvenient truth of Greendale is that Sun Green was right -- we've got a job to do.
And -- inconveniently -- the job is bigger than saving just Alaska.
The inconvenient truth of Greendale is that short term sacrifices must be made for the benefit of future generations. And to achieve those lofty objectives will take sustained leadership rather than hollow promises and deceitful rhetoric.
From Venice Magazine interview (February 2004) on making a difference:
YOUNG: "Well, I think it is incumbent upon me, with Greendale out there, to do everything that I can to try to live up to Sun Green's vision of what the world should be like, and the kind of changes people should make. Which is more like, "Put your money where your mouth is.
And it's slow, a painfully slow process, but one of the things that we are doing is starting to power our vehicles for this next tour with bio-fuel that has no emissions that damage the ozone, 75 to 80% less pollution than normal diesel, and we'll just try to make a statement that, "Hey, this is something you can do right now, I could be driving around in my SUV or Hummer burning vegetable oil." The thing everybody hates about those is how wasteful they are. The fact that it's big, it's in the way, it's macho, and it's polluting the fucking planet and wasting fuel while it's doing it, it's pouring gallons and gallons of gasoline through one of these things, that's what bothers people."
The inconvenient truth of Greendale is that regardless of whether you loved it or hated it, it was "the most important album of 2003, the musical equivalent of Silent Spring".
For us, Greendale was like a sledgehammer to the anvil of truth and awakened this blog from it's post-9/11 dormancy.
Commenting on Thrasher's Wheat Guest Book, Greg writes:
"Greendale is directed at and a celebration of an emerging awareness on the part of thinking people that something is seriously wrong."
The inconvenient truth of Greendale is that the album was only Part 1 of Neil's message that change must come ... now. Part 2 came in Prairie Wind's "When God Made Me"'s lyrics which are a cry for compassion and justice. And part 3's Living with War spoke the loudest and generated the most controversary speaking truth to power.
From Jambands.com concert review:
"Regardless of what anyone says about his various side trips down the slippery slopes of genres as polarizing as rockabilly and electronica, Young is a musical chameleon with the courage to try something new, or in terms of Greendale, to say something that not many people are too keen to listen to. In a time in world history where assimilation reigns supreme, Young remains the outlier, the critic, the harsh voice of reality that kicks us in the ass from time to time when we do something stupid. Rather than criticize his views as outlandish, or characterize his rock opera as a 'creative stumble,' we should praise the guy for having the balls to stand up in the first place and be counted."
You can make a difference if you really try so be the rain!
And VOTE on November 7!
Also, see The Secret is Now Out: We've Got A Job To Do.