Life in the Neil Young Cocoon
There are times when we just want to pack it in, buy a pickup truck and head out to L.A.
Here's a comment on Be On My Side, I'll Be On Your Side: The Myth of Washed Up Neil by Robin (Bonn, Germany) said...
Oh my god..
Ok, I am running risk to be labeled as Troll or Hater, even more because I have no legit registration for my comment.
But please. Let people say their opinion. It is okay to think that Neils latest output isn't up there with his classics and his usual "standard". It is also okay to think that the stuff is great and on a level with the old stuff.
Its not about the different opinions on Neils music.
What is really bothering me, is way people deal with negative comments here. Yeah, some of those comments are not well founded. But there are also many postings among these 100+ comments that are honest and thoughtful meanings about Neils new stuff.
And Thrasher. I really like your site and I am a regular visitor. But sometimes one gets the impression, that you are almost getting payed not to get any negative press about Neil. You are almost supressing negative opinions and thoughts.
Let them be. Its ok. Neil is no god. He's just a man, just like you and me. He can do wrong sometimes and he is allowed to do mediocre stuff sometimes. Its ok. It would be scary, if he would never fail.
And so its okay for us to think open minded about what he does. We all here love his music and what this man has done all the years and we love what his music means for our lives.
And still, it is allowed to think, that his newer stuff is not to someones likings. It doesnt touch his old stuff. Its a matter of personal taste and opinions.
Having said this, I will also contribute my opinion on Neils recent work.
I have seen Neil two times on the last tour and those shows rank among the best I've ever seen in my life.
And I was shocked, when I heard the first recordings of the new FITR songs. Those songs dont stack up to any of his backcatalog. They lack soul. They are musically very simple. Neil has often written technically simple music. Cortez exists of three simple chords. And it is miles and miles away from, lets say, When worlds collide. Cortez is an extreme example, but you get what I mean.
I also agree, that he somehow has lost his genious. The Neil I am seeing now is not the one he was a few years ago. He is settled.
I cant imagine him writing those FITR songs e.g. on the 1996 Tour. These were different times.
His latest records lack this very special magic his music usually had for me. I listen to them rarely.
Well, okay. That doesnt change a bit, that he has created the soundtrack for my life. His music will always be connected with my life.
But its a bit sad to see, where he is going the past years. its like losing a dear friend.
Okay, and please understand. This is my personal opinion. I am not bashing anyone. Not you, not Neil. But this is a Neil-Website. Where else should I be able to express those sad thoughts?
its okay to have them. To talk about them.
There is no need to fight about it.
To which we replied back with:
Thank you so much for your comment.
I guess this affords the opportunity to clarify some things. At the risk of boring everyone, most of what I've said on the matter is contained in the Comments Policy which is linked on every comment thread.
To boil it down, I certainly welcome Neil criticism. I think if you read the site regularly,we post negative stuff quite a bit. We also deconstruct it if we find it invalid. Somehow, we find it amusing.
But this is a thread that's been hijacked by someone and their aliases who seem to have an agenda. Neil can do no right in their mind. If it's not FITR is a lousy song, it's the setlists that are too heavy on new songs, the ticket prices are too high, Pegi can't play, and on & on. We're just find the unrelenting negativity by the same person to be disruptive and are trying to put a stop to it.
Folks have let me know they do not like the bad neighborhood feel of TW comments. I'm not trying to make this a total Neil love fest but something enjoyable.
So sometimes I delete comments that are repetitiously negative. It's old news and doesn't advance new arguments or theories.
So we like to think we're tolerant here @ TW. You'd be amazed probably at the amount of crap we let slide as well as the amount we have to trash.
It truly is a pain that makes us wonder why bother? We can turn off comments. we can moderate them. we can require registration.
All of those things would bring the problem to a halt.
And then we'll have our perfect little pristine Neil village.
Thanks for your comment Robin. And most of all your honesty, providing a name and location.
Hope to see you back again someday my friend.
And, we'll expand our response by taking creative license from our all-time favorite blogger Glenn Greenwald:
Fans who want to opine musically or otherwise have an influence on the musical process have -- in our view -- an obligation to engage criticisms.
Our musical discourse is so stratified that bloggers and commenters can get all the exposure they want while confining themselves to hospitable forums and only speaking to sympathetic fans. That, as but one example, is what fuels "access blogging" -- the willingness of fans to comment only to deferential posts, who stay deferential in order to ensure that those fans continue to speak with them, a process that perpetuates itself ad infinitum. That has created a virtually complete -- and quite destructive -- accountability-free zone where musicians and fans alike can simply avoid any form of adversarial questioning or challenges to their claims.
Fans who want to opine critically or otherwise have an influence on the musical process have -- in our view -- an obligation to engage criticisms. That's the reason we do things such as spend 1,000 words on the new songs. That's why we virtually always post complaints and responses from those whom we criticize.
Sometimes these sorts of clashes are unpleasant. Sometimes, due to the fans involved or other factors, they are not constructive. But often they are (as but one example, we unexpectedly found our discussion with Robin to be quite substantive and weirdly respectful). And, in all events, doing these things is something which, if one wants to spout musical opinions in public, one should feel compelled to do [and, to be meaningful, the obligation extends beyond pseudo-debates between such mutually admiring friends (and like-minded comrades) that the bubbly lovefest precludes any serious challenges].
More importantly, it's precisely the ability of musicians, bloggers and fans to avoid meaningful challenges to their views that, more than any other factor, degrades our musical discourse. The reason the Village Voice or UK Guardian disseminate blatant falsehoods and then never bother to correct or even acknowledge those errors -- and the reason people like The Voice's Rob Harvilla can spout the most intellectually dishonest articles imaginable -- is precisely because they know they can just avoid any venues where they will be questioned or challenged about what they say. Those who insulate themselves from critics and just ignore all criticisms, and who speak only to hospitable forums, know that they can say anything without consequence or accountability (just compare the cowardly The Voice's Harvilla or The Guardian's Sean Michaels humiliating history of deceit and error-plagued punditry to their endless promotions within our fan establishment).
In fact, it is precisely this dynamic that makes the absence of adversarial blogging -- and the dominance of access blogging -- so destructive. Some Neil "fans" were able to spend five years spewing the most blatant falsehoods because they knew that most fans wouldn't challenge them or even point out the falsity of their claims.
And, in general, it's hard to overstate how severely the cocooning process can distort reality (see here and here and here for a couple recent, typical examples).
Adversarial challenges to one's statements are a vital check on errors and deceit.
Clashes of ideas are an irreplaceable instrument for truth-finding. Shielding oneself from such challenges (or just ignoring them) is not only irresponsible and cowardly, but ensures that one can opine without accountability. That's why bloggers who have an active, smart and critical comment section with which they interact have a major advantage over forums which hide from critical scrutiny. In all of this, it's reasonable to exercise some discretion -- not all criticisms and/or critics merit attention -- but those who avoid any real challenges to their statements (whether musicians, bloggers, or fans) ought to be stigmatized for doing so, and it ought to be viewed as a powerful indictment against their credibility.
It's My Party. You can come if you want to.
Be the wheat.