Be On My Side, I'll Be On Your Side: The Myth of Washed Up Neil
UPDATE: 2/16 - Incredibly, the myth of the myth itelf is perpetuated even further in today's OregonLive.com's Hard Drive: A commuting blog by Joseph Rose "Neil Young's concept album about eco-friendly cars puzzles fans, critics - Has Neil Young lost his hybrid-loving mind?".
The Oregon Live article feeds off the following blog post. Right down to the exact quotes and link sources. Thanks Joseph. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Fans Cough Up The Buck$ for new Neil Young songs @
Madison Square Garden, NYC, NY - 12/15/2008
The Ground Zero of Capitalism
There's a Bailout comin'
And it's not for you.
Last month, we wrote about the new songs that Neil Young debuted on tour in 2008 and the extraordinary reaction by fans and critics.
We had been hearing them out on the road live for the first time and absorbing their freshness when it became apparent that not everyone was enamored with new Neil songs. Hmm, how odd?
The latest round on the uproar over Neil's unrelenting creativity was sparked by our blogging which led off with the truly despicably bizarre review of the MSG, NYC shows in the Village Voice by Rob Harvilla titled "Let's Avoid Neil Young's Next Record: The old stuff enthralls, but the new stuff terrorizes at MSG":
"I am struggling to think of anyone who could possibly give less of a fuck about what you think of his/her new album than Neil Young does. But each song tonight creates an unpleasant binary effect: Love it if we immediately recognize it; barely tolerate it if we don't."
"The crowd's restlessness is painfully evident, particularly in the case of two stupendously drunk older ladies in my row who start booing loudly and shouting, "You suck!" into the bug-/buck-coughing din. [sic]"
Harvilla's review goes on to report "that only 60% of the original audience remained by the end of the show" which was total utter rubbish as was his characterizations of the audience demeanor. See this photo from the concert's conclusion and note that it is 100% full and these 100+ ecstatic review blog comments.
Neil Young and His Electric Band
Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York - Dec. 15, 2008
Photo by penfifteenclub on Flickr
Village Voice critic Harvilla was contacted for this blog but he refused to provide comment.
In addition to blogging on Harvilla's lame review we then blogged this comment on the new song "FORK IN THE ROAD":
"The other car songs featured on tour are decidedly bad, but this 'Fork in the Road' song is so distressingly awful that it almost seems like a joke. So hideous that one almost has to laugh at the situation. Would a record company actually listen to this garbage and then agree to release it? At some point, they're going to have to take a stand - right? I'm actually rooting for the record company here."
Now it gets interesting. Next, Thrasher's Wheat blog gets picked up by the U.K.'s The Guardian newspaper headlined "Neil Young fans upset that he is releasing a new album" by "reporter" Sean Michaels:
For months now, Young obsessives have been awaiting the release of Archives Volume 1 – a vast library of early recordings, in the form of 10 Blu-ray discs. This week, however, reports have emerged that an album of new Neil Young material – called Fork In the Road – will pre-empt Archives, pushing its February release back into spring.
Often, this would call for celebration. Who needs old material when you are being offered shiny, new songs by a music legend? Alas, that's not what Neil Young's fans seem to be thinking. They have heard these new songs – on Young's recent tour, or in a new viral video – and let's just say they don't like them very much.
"Would a record company actually listen to this garbage and then agree to release it?" asked one fan at the popular Thrasher's Wheat site. "At some point, they're going to have to take a stand – right? I'm actually rooting for the record company here."
With Fork In the Road, Young seems to be exploring three things – dirty blues, direct lyrics, and his LincVolt electric car project. That all sounds well and good until you hear the opening lyrics of the title track.
"Got a pot belly," Young sings, "It's not too big / Gets in my way / When I'm driving my rig."
The video – clearly a webcam recording of Old Shakey chomping on an apple, mouthing along, cotton buds in his ears – doesn't inspire much confidence. A few minutes in, he sings about blogging. Later in the video he plays air guitar as a flat-screen TV seems to be repossessed. Commentary on the financial crisis? Maybe. Revelatory rock music? Says a fan of his for the past 20 years: "This new stuff is simply the most tired music I've ever heard from Neil."
Instantly, The Guardian newspaper article using Thrasher's Wheat original premise with Harvilla's angle and then cherry-picking, an out-of-context quote from Rust starts to ricochet through the internet echo chamber.
- Neil Young to Release Potentially Batshit Concept Album | Pitchfork
- Neil Young's Electric Car Songs Make Some Regret That 'Rust Never Sleeps' - Business and Media
- Neil Young's Archives delayed - Peterborough Examiner - Ontario, CA
- Neil Young’s New Album To Be All About Eco Cars // Archives // ecorazzi.com :: the latest in green gossip:
"The other car songs featured on tour are decidedly bad, but this ‘Fork in the Road’ song is so distressingly awful that it almost seems like a joke,” said one reviewer on the Thrashers Wheat website. “So hideous that one almost has to laugh at the situation."
- CANOE -- JAM! - Neil Young box set delayed again
- Neil Young loses mind, legitimacy on new album – Spectator Blog
- Neil Young to Release Album About Eco-Cars | RiverWired
- Neil Young to release worst album (all electric car songs) in history of music - I Hate the Media: "You won’t get much of an argument from anyone if you say Neil Young is the worst singer in the history of rock ‘n roll."
The pedantically opining critics with their false assertions, canards and tropes on Neil's creative decline and fan revolts seems to play into the hands of all the deniers and doubters.
So let us take some creative license here with one of our all time favorite bloggers Glenn Greenwald who does the smackdown so diplomatically:
"There are times when the glaring ignorance one encounters from people who are paid to write about music issues is so severe -- so illustrative of how distorted and misleading our musical discourse is -- that it's impossible to ignore even though one would really like to.
This is what happens constantly -- ill-motivated and/or ill-informed people spout the most blatant falsehoods, using their venues and credentials to mislead others on these sorts of issues.
It really isn't that hard to refrain from writing about things or making statements about matters that you know absolutely nothing about, or at least to spend a small amount of time finding out before using a platform like The Village Voice or a large blog or a college degree to spout whatever pops into your head."
Thanks Glenn! (fyi - good blog by Glenn).
Obviously, folks who don't "get Neil" just don't have a clue.
"Fork In the Road" Video
But there are those who do "get it" like over on the blog Seeking Alpha "Neil Young's Message to Wall St." regarding the new song and video "Fork in the Road":
"Are we listening?
You can dismiss it as 'just a rock song,' but personally I think that's a mistake. Neil Young is not only a big rock star, but a profoundly patriotic guy who is engaged in the issues of the day. He's turning his old Lincoln into an electric car and he performs at benefits for farmers and the poor and the other left-behind people he sings about. He's also been a good barometer of what people are thinking; remember, long before the outcome of last year's election was obvious to anyone, he sang:
Someone walks among us, and I hope he hears the call.
Maybe it's a woman, or a black man after all.
No business exists without public permission, and in finance that means the trust and confidence of investors and the public at large. The events of the last year have wiped out any good will that the Street might have had. Neil Young has just delivered a little musical reminder that we have a long road ahead to get it back. And if it's not too corny for me to say it, the road back is paved with transparency and good practices."
And the mainstream press continues to perpetuate the burned out Neil the hippie meme in TIME magazine "Neil Young's Bailout Song" by Claire Suddath which frames the old versus new debate:
"The song, 'Fork in the Road,' is allegedly the title track off a forthcoming album, and its home-movie quality video features Young wearing headphones plugged into an apple (oh, he is so clever) and moving around in quasi-dance motions like an aging hippie rocking out to the same classic jam he's been listening to for the past four decades.
To be fair, it's hard to write music about the economy. No one has ever come out with a great 'Invisible Hand' anthem or a theme song about price elasticity and wage rates. But that doesn't stop Young from trying; the latter part of his 2008 world tour concerts were peppered with angry rants about the financial collapse. Last November he even released his own plan for saving the U.S. auto industry. Young aimed to tackle 'the issue of global warming from our automobiles while enhancing our National Security and keeping Detroit working.'
Wow, did the Woodstock generation get boring or what?"
And this from Snapped Shot on "The Grammy-Baiting Neil Young":
"I bet if the other tracks on Neil Young's new albums deal with other such controversial material, such as shrinking rainforests, the depleted ozone layer, and global warming, he'd be a shoo-in for this year's Grammy Awards, despite the fact that this could quite possibly be be the worst song, ever."
From Consequence of Sound "Neil Young goes “mental” on new album" by Michael Roffman:
Neil Young is, for the lack of a better word, insane.
But that’s why we love him, right? His music is turbulent and fierce, always engaging the listener with apocalyptic discourse that’s both surreal and rather grim, and his image is iconic. Just by looking at him, one could assess that not everything’s all together with the ol’ Canadian songwriter. He looks like an ex-grunge rocker, and even though he’s pushing sixty-four years of age, he carries it off like a teenager. So, it should come as no surprise that he’s just as angsty and bitter as one, too."
But many Neil fans do "get it" like the oh-so elegant Anonymous:
Neil to his credit seems to take it in stride in the 'Fork' video. I think he's often way ahead of many fans. He's been criticized for things over the years, but he just keeps going forward, and then in retrospect many fans come around to seeing (and appreciating) where he was coming from, or that he's so prolific they move onto focus on his next great project.
Either way, the criticism seems petty when seen in context of what he's done and what he'll do. Second, I think the journalist on Guardian.com deserves a black mark for writing a very slanted Anti-Neil article. For every complaint there is another fan praising but few if any of the positive comments were highlighted in the article. The cynic in me says that most journalists are at heart focused on getting paid so critical, slanted articles create controversy and they sell better. I don't think that author had something unique or sincere to say.
Finally, I think some people are wired to complain so they'll complain no matter how many great projects, shows, songs, album Neil does, they'll focus on the one aspect they don't like and blow it out of proportion. To Neil's credit he's made a career of completely ignoring the complainers, the journalists, and even devoted fans and all the while managing to stay a few steps ahead.
Gary A. adds:
I would be the last person to tell Neil what to play and what to release, and I think we all do a great disservice to him, and also disrespect him, to ask him to not follow his heart and release whatever the hell he wants to release.
So, for the critics in all of us, here's a little song for you from Martin:
Come gather 'round whiners
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the songs they are a-changin'.
Complainers and whiners
Throughout the land
Do not criticize
What you can't understand
The songs and the lyrics
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the songs they are a-changin'.
Had enuf? No??? Then you'll just love "Neil Young Officially Washed Up For All Time" reverse chronology by Bluejay Young.
Or just light a candle my friend because just writing a blog won't change the world.