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Monday, June 25, 2012

The Americana-ness of Neil Young & Crazy Horse's Americana

Crazy Horse & Neil Young
Frank "Pancho" Sampedro, Bill Talbot, Ralph Molina
Musicares Honors Paul McCartney
Los Angeles, CA - 2/10/12

After what seems to have been a long couple of days here at TW, it would seem that we more fully appreciate the "Americana-ness" of Neil Young & Crazy Horse's Americana album.

So what the heck does that mean you might ask?

Well, if you've been following our comment threads lately, you might understand. If not, well, you may have saved yourself some time -- or depending on your point of view -- missed quite a bit of entertainment. Maybe it's just the summer heat that's getting to folks?

To summarize if just tuning in, last week we decontructed a rather harsh review of Americana on The Herald-Review by Tim Cain. The reviewer found Americana to be a "self parody because it is too rich, too perfect, too comical to be anything but a parody."

Some agreed with our take on the review and others did not. Fine. This was followed by our posting of an equal opportunity dissenting opinion (which we do indeed welcome), of a thoughtful, well considered rebuttal by Babbo.

So we included a poll asking if folks really thought that Americana "Drifts into Self Parody" of a Neil Young & Crazy Horse album?

And what did we find?

Interestingly, it seems that the majority think that no, Americana is not a "Self Parody" because it captures Neil Young & Crazy Horse in all of their raw, ragged glory. Between those who say Americana is not a "Self Parody" and those indifferent, it seems about 95% of folks are OK or neutral with Americana. Only 5% of voters thought Americana is a "Self Parody" because it is "too rich, too perfect, too comical to be anything but a parody." (Could this contingent be the dreaded "4% Club" that emerged after Fork in the Road? Let's hope not since they seem to be growing.)

[NOTE: If you're one of those numbers add up to nothin' types then just read these often heartfelt ordinary people comments on our Facebook page ThrashersWheatNeverSleeps (74).]

In other words, the poll results and positive comments seem to be fairly representative of the mythical "Americana" itself, i.e., passions on the extreme fringes of the Neil-love and Neil-hate camps are unrepresentative while it is the great middle ground of Neil-moderates who are the true silent majority. In other words, the Neil Young fan base is reflective of "Americana" itself where the discourse is dominated by the hype/wind/noise machines on the fringes which is unrepresentative of the true mainstream "Americana". And those mainstream or "ordinary Neil fans" have stood and been counted and they think Neil & The Horse's Americana is perfectly OK.

So where do we go from here? Between a very analytical comment by Greg "A Friend Of Yours" and several other supportive comments like Sandy H's giving us a sanity check along with the poll results, we think we're good for another 15 years of "Separating the wheat from the chaff".

Lastly, here's a comment by setlistthief:
I've just put "Americana" on heavy rotation so I've only formed a few initail impressions. I hear "Powderfinger" in a couple of those folk songs. "High Flyin' Bird" is a NYCH classic that's going to be a live scorcher. "Wayfaring Stranger" is a gorgeous "Boxcar"-like acoustic piece. And in many ways, the remaining songs remind me of Dylan's "Love and Theft." Right now, however, the album doesn't flow for me, but I may get there eventually after a few more listens.

Maybe I won't be listening to "Americana" next year at this time, but right now I'm absolutely intrigued by what Neil's done this time around.

Honestly, I thought Neil would never work with Crazy Horse again. Glad I was mistaken.

So how about it "The John Q. General Ordinary Public of Americana" and Rusties of the world? What do you guys really think?

Labels: , , , ,


At 6/25/2012 09:37:00 AM, Blogger Tweck9 said...

We! Are! The 94.86%!

At 6/25/2012 10:54:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

It's funny how some people listen, love it and that's it. They leave a comment or two saying how they feel about a song and move on. The ones that hate the album go on and on ad nauseam letting us know Neil sucks, is too rich, is not an artist etc...

As for Thrasher... You seem to be hated as much as Neil! You must be doing something right? Some of us do appreciate your efforts.

At 6/25/2012 01:06:00 PM, Anonymous Mother Nature on the Run said...

Only until Neil throws "A Day At the Gallery" and the Shepard Fairey posters in there does Americana break free of parody and start to uncover the real horror, hardship, and sacrifice of surviving our racist past. The posters add visually what was missing from the beginning. A respect for the material and the history that created it.

The Fairey posters help put the songs back into a historical context which was very important for me. Otherwise it robs everyone of their history and all that we overcame.

I know for some of you it's all about the music. Music should be joyous and uplifting. But for me, Neil has always been more than the music he created because he was always hitting the nerve center of our collective conscious.

Mother Nature on the Run

At 6/25/2012 01:35:00 PM, Blogger SONY said...

"In the end, the experience of listening to Americana can be as shallow or as deep as you want it to be. My advice is to not overanalyze Neil Young’s reasons for rejoining forces with Crazy Horse at this point in time and doling out this collection of songs.

It’s this simple: the muse spoke.

They played.


Better said than I.

Album Review: Americana
Published: 2012/06/13 by Jambands
by Brian Robbins

At 6/25/2012 01:50:00 PM, Anonymous Mother Nature in the Rabbit Hole said...

Is it me or does that image of that man glaring at you in the "Oh Don't You Cry" send chills down your back? Is it a glare of hatred against a group of people? The man is covered in red, too. Shepard does a lot of research on the work he's commissioned to do and silently editorializes through the use of color and symbols.

Did he also see the irony in a minstrel song that carried so much hate and disrespect for a group of people should find it's way into the 21st century?

At 6/25/2012 03:18:00 PM, Blogger Dan1 said...


Love that review!!!

At 6/26/2012 11:45:00 AM, Blogger Tweck9 said...

MNOTR, great to see your posts again.

Interesting perspective on the album and the context of its delivery having an impact on its overall meaningfulness.

I am fascinated by how it either goes one way or the other for you depending on the inclusion of the posters and the Day at the Gallery piece.

IMO, it's wonderful how all the art works together to convey the historical messages and provide more context for the experience.

But at the same time, I wonder how you think the music as a stand alone thing "robs" us of the true importance or meaning of the songs?

How are the songs being removed from their historical context by NY&CH doing their interpretations of them?

Personally, yes, for me, at least at this point, it is all about the music. I am very much enjoying Neil and the Horse slashing and burning through some of these great tunes. High Flying Bird, Oh Susannah, Jesus' Chariot, etc. are totally on fire, soaring, scorching the sky, and I love it.

I miss this sound from Neil and the Horse, and I don't think they've done anything approaching it since Broken Arrow, so it's very exciting for me.

But I enjoy also the great deeper discussion about context and historical dialogue that comes along with it. I am not sure how to feel about that, though. Great art is often polarizing, and I imagine this album has that effect. I love it as much (or even more) for the fact of its expression, as (or than) the meaning contained therein.

At 6/26/2012 02:55:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@Dean - thanks. If this is what its like if we're doing something right, we'd hate to be wrong!

@SONY - good review snip. agree. Kinda says it all.

@MNOTR - long time no see.

@Matthew - glad you're enjoin'!


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