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Monday, January 29, 2007

TRANS Revisited: When New Wave happens to Baby Boomer rockers

An interesting analysis of TRANS over on CultureCloud by Bob Cook. Cook looks at what happens when artists from the '60's meet up with New Wave and examines Neil Young's TRANS.
"In the late 1970s, established Baby-Boomer rockers -- the kind now the target audience of Dennis Hopper's rebellious retirement plan TV ads -- got jolted by the double-barrelled commercial attack of disco and New Wave. The results of rockers' sudden, survival-instinct embrace of disco (from artistic and commercial successes as the Rolling Stones, to commercial successes and artistic failures such as Rod Stewart and Kiss, to failures all around such as Aretha Franklin) has been well-chronicled.

But what of those rockers who succumbed to New Wave? In North America, punk was slow to break out commercially, but the edgy, choppy, synth-driven, skinny-tie sounds of New Wave caught fire, making many veteran artists sound like dinosaurs. Which many of them, thanks to a combination of substance abuse, aging and general torpor, indeed were. While bands like the Allman Brothers (at least for a while) were lost in New Wave's wake, other acts decided they had better start sounding more like Gary Numan."

Cook goes on to describe the painful backstory in detail and the resulting TRANS sessions. While Thrasher would have to disagree with the overall assessment, as flawed as TRANS might be, it is still an essential component of Neil's discography.

Also see review Trans - Neil Young Albums In Order and Neil Young Interview - Village Voice Rock and Roll Quarterly, Winter 1989.


At 1/29/2007 10:25:00 PM, Blogger Timothy Magaw said...

Trans gets a bad wrap. It's not a bad, let alone terrible, album. It's some catchy tracks. "Computer Age" is age is catchy as hell. That guitar hook is addicting. Once you get passed the synths and 80s-ish production, a great album is uncovered. People often throw away the "rock" tracks from the album such as, "Little Thing Called Love" and "Like an Inca."

At 1/30/2007 06:10:00 PM, Blogger Jamie Summers said...

why ignore the production and synths? the album is not only audacious and brave, it's also very cleverly written, a wonderful concept and sounds fantastic. the problem is that the majority of neil's more musically conservative fans couldn't move as fast as neil could. i would kill to hear some of trans remixed by a good modern electro outfit.

At 1/31/2007 08:34:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem that I have with Trans is that does not push the envelope as far as it should. The best tracks are the ones that most people seem to take issue with; I could never understand. In comparison tracks like "Little Thing Called Love" seem like add-ons, as if Neil was trying for a compromise between the weirder stuff and more standard fare.

At 2/01/2007 04:26:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Trans is NY’s foray into the world of synthesisers, all the vogue at the time. He used them again a few years later on the rockier ‘Landing on Water’. Whether synths are your thing or not, you cannot deny that Trans has some good songs, including the track ‘Sample and Hold’ which I find very moving every time I listen to it. I don’t know what it is, but there is definitely something about that song.

At 2/06/2007 03:48:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I distinctly remember TRANS coming out at the end of the month of December in 1982. The album just blew me away! From the changing ages album art to all the "new age" songs like Computer Age, Syscrusher, and Sample and Hold. Neil did what all true visionaries do, that is they follow their inner man, i.e. his muse. Neil has threads running through his music that only the insightful will hear. But the funny thing is is that they're hidden in plane sight. How appropriately a new version of Mr. Soul was included on TRANS. There is no doubt in my mind that TRANS is one of Neil Young's greatest recordings and should be seen as the work of a master musician. As for all the narrow minded critics out there that "think it strange that Neil's music changed on TRANS, why don't you ask her?"

At 9/18/2011 01:17:00 AM, Anonymous VoiceEncoder said...

The vocoder used on this album is the Sennheiser Vocoder VSM201, btw!!


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