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Sunday, November 05, 2006

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.

greendale flag

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."

rcmh2004_carmflagThe 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."

support war 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 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.


At 11/05/2006 11:14:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always thought that Greendale was underrated. Thanks for the context. Very timely.

At 11/05/2006 02:14:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've never been too fond of that Shakey fellow. Ignore his input, give the album a proper listen and Greendale turns out to be one galloping Horse album, IMO.

At 11/06/2006 09:05:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for putting that piece together, I think you're spot on about Greendale. I think I'll go put it on right now.

Expecting To Fly

At 11/06/2006 09:13:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice piece Thrasher. Greendale remains the best post-9/11 political commentary in music. I think a valid case can be made that "Grandpa's Interview" is the best and most important song Neil Young ever wrote.

At 11/06/2006 05:58:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish I had an electric Live version of "Grandpa's Interview". It SO kicked live as I remember from the front row in Houston. I think the only live version from Greendale was "Be The Rain" from a DVD, right?

Thanks for the piece, Thrasher!

At 11/06/2006 09:33:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I personally think Greendale is Neils finest work. I was lucky enough to have been able to treat myself to the show 4 times and it got better every time. He really gives a great overview of this country's state of affairs. I think the biggest reason that the album wasn't a commercial success (and who really cares) is that I have never seen such a huge difference in the live performance and the released album. Not just the visual (always a bonus) but musically. Fortunately I have some real nice recordings of those shows I attended. I still get back to Greendale about 3 times a week! should really do some homework and get yourself a copy of your show....I got a great one from when I was at Radio City Music Hall NYC (3rd row center)...I was also very lucky enough to have gotten one of Neils guitar picks...sweeeeeeeeeeeeeet!

At 11/08/2006 12:57:00 AM, Blogger haahnster said...

Nice post, Thrasher!!!

At 12/06/2006 02:01:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

greendale is the best album since 'rust never sleep'(1979).

At 2/02/2007 03:21:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

'Greendale" is the best Neil Young Album since 'Rust Never Sleep', it is certainly underrated by medias and fans. Neil is an excellent story teller, he did great jobs for the songs arrangement and guitar solo, Neil recorded the entire ablum with 3 pcs band (without Frank from Crazy Horse).I hope Neil will release the live recording of 'Greendale' in CD as well as DVD some days latter. ANd i also hope that Neil will record new album or has tour with Crazy Horse in 2007.

At 5/09/2007 12:31:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greendale: brilliant!

Once again, Neil is ahead of his time.
Greendale is a modern opera that is an utter masterpiece.
I have enjoyed it over and over.The lyrics, the message, the story, the characters the presentation are simple,relevant, universal, profound and awesome at once.


At 1/17/2009 02:53:00 AM, Blogger WMPopper said...

Greendale Highly recommended viewing for artist's visual and aural convergence takes one to another time and space where the viewer, observer is provided the cinematic time and space for personal affirmation, and enlightenment....

At 3/03/2010 01:41:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The issues of environment and economy are just aspects of a wider and more fundamental belief: human supremacy and domination. The more you look at it, the more you see the mindset of Manifest Destiny in not only the way humans behave in past and present, but in the way humans look at their own behavior. We deserve to because we can.

For every person writing another article about how we need to move to a ”green economy”, there are tens of thousands who are being failed by these authors. They are being deliberately shielded from the multitudes of questions about the way we interact with nature and the rights we believe we have in that interaction, and this is wrong. Eventually, humanity needs to reach farther than a state of damaged adolescence and take a good look at its own abusively narcissistic ideology.

And then you need to change your actions, fundamentally, without regard for your convenience or privilege.

Regardless of what we believe we know about evolution and every other creature in the world – nature’s supposed viciousness and unsanitariness and the equally supposed mental and emotional inferiority of every non-human animal in existence – when we put these beliefs up against the picture of reality, they don’t fit. Unless, of course, you squint, or look away to see what The Professor is saying on television about dogs being incapable of feeling remorse or anger.

The othering needs to stop. You need to stop your both your silence and your delusions: that life is not fair, that life is not joyful, that life is not meaningful. If these things are lacking in your life, it is only because you have removed them. You need to dump your car, stop using your stove, relegate your MP3 player to ”treat” status. You need to go outside and pick fruit and stop looking away when others try to meet your eyes and smile at you. You need to understand that disease is not natural, that the pain you cannot live with is a way to make sure that you do not have to live with unbearable pain, that syphilis, AIDS, herpes, tuberculosis, diabetes I&II are here because you decided to have them here – because you decided that your own health and the health of your family and everyone you love was worth less than your yen for cheese, yogurt or chicken. You need to punch the guy who tries to grope you and kill him if he refuses to stop violating your personal space, because nature fully supports the concept of rights: if you try to hurt me, I can get away or I can fight back. Getting away will probably be easier, faster, and nicer, but I will fight if you press the issue.

And that’s exactly what happens ”among the beasts”.

Throw out the baby along with the bathwater; it’s destroying you inside and out, and you’re trying to take me with you. Let go of your fear of death. No matter what, if your life isn’t done now, then it will never be done; and if you are fine with dying, then you will never lose anything when you do. Always, always live as if you will die tomorrow, and do your damnedest to fix everything so that you will have no regrets if you do.

It’s a better life to live homeless, in a tent, than it is in the perpetual slavery of capitalism, to obey a contract you never agreed to sign. That so many people don’t know this is the real proof that fear works so well.

Capitalism is based off fear. You can’t have it, it’s mine, get away or I’ll call the police. So is human supremacy: they can’t have it, it’s mine, get away or I’ll kill you and slaughter and eat your children.

Personally, I find fear unpleasant and tiresome, so I refuse to be afraid.

At 3/06/2016 10:23:00 PM, Blogger Alan said...

3/6/2016: I just went down the Rabbit hole, through the looking glass, got enlightened about the symbolic meanings behind the Wizard of Oz, pondered the fleecing of the populace by the banking powers of the world, and all in one convenient location, right here on my favorite website on the entire internet. I have been missing out on some things that were right under my nose. Thank you, Thrasher's Wheat, for spelling some things out and connecting the dots. An awakening in the 21st century is inevitable, as the planet heats up and the water disappears. Capitalism is not inherently good or smart, in fact, it doesn't even have a heart. And then there's Art. Neil Young. The brave truth-teller who channels the Muse and wields lightning when swinging his axe, sounding like a jet engine in a hurricane. Or strumming an acoustic guitar, creating beauty, telling his truth. The stakes are high. Who's Gonna Stand Up? I love your site! Alan in Seattle

At 3/06/2016 10:32:00 PM, Blogger Alan said...

To think I would get crucial Philosophy, insight into existence, and a call to action right here on my favorite web site which is focused on my favorite Rock Star / artist! Thanks, Anonymous, and thanks to Thrasher's Wheat, and all who bring their heart and mind with them. -Alan in Seattle


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