Comment of the Moment: A Neil Young Critic Drifts Into Self-parody
Illustration by Mike Faille, from Kiim Kong photo
(Click photo to enlarge)
Americana, Neil Young's first album with Crazy Horse in nine years, seems to have really struck some chords -- both consonant and dissonant.
Once again, we seem to be in one of those phases of Neil's career where many are applauding his prolifically, awesome creativity with new albums, songs, tours, books, films and even a high tech car production. Lucky for us fans, it would seem.
And others -- naturally -- see this as a tremendous opportunity to find fault, belittle and castigate Neil Young's creativity and artistic freedom to follow his muse wherever it takes him. Even down the proverbial rabbit hole. What we call The Unbearable Lightness of Being Neil Young if you will.
Yesterday, we decontructed a rather harsh review of Americana on The Herald-Review by Tim Cain. Some agreed with our take take on it and others did not. And in the interest of equal opportunity of dissenting opinions (which we do indeed welcome), here's a thoughtful, well considered rebuttal from Babbo B.:
Where to begin, indeed ...
First off, Thrasher, this critic is not comparing music to TV or magazines, or calling "Family Guy" or the Lampoon self-parodies. He begins by discussing musical parody in various mediums, what works and doesn't, what's fair and isn't. ("Southern California Brings Me Down" is, by the way, a minor masterpiece.)
From there, he uses the musical parody concept as a way to express his feelings about "Americana." He seems to have a very clear grasp of what Neil is trying to accomplish with the album, he simply doesn't care for the execution (not that the review is perfectly executed itself). Indeed, for better or worse, the rawness and sloppiness of the Horse is on primo display here (which isn't surprising since these are essentially warm-up sessions for the "real" album to come). Some people enjoy that approach, some don't - all are entitled to their opinions.
You seem to argue that any reviews of Neil's work are invalid on their face, since the albums can't be evaluated for many years and the recordings are superseded by the live performances. While there is truth to both of those points, the fact remains that "Americana" is being marketed right now, independent of live performances, to a mass audience (not just the Neil faithful), people who simply want to listen to the music, not watch videos or analyze historical context or sociopolitical implications. Those are the folks who the critics are writing for, and many of them will be interested in hearing what other people have to say (particularly critics whose tastes match theirs, based on previous experience) before they cough up their bucks.
While I personally enjoy "Americana," I can see how many people might not, and they deserve some fair warning about what to expect. Neil has every right to follow his muse, and those in the listening public - including critics - have every right to decide whether they want to follow him or not.
p.s. - It's Shepard Fairey, not Fairy.
First, thank you Babbo B. for the comment and taking the time to go and read the linked review, our response and compose your thoughts. It is appreciated and respected. (As opposed to spewing nasty hyperbolic rage like Daylily Dallas.) And, thanks for the typo check. Fixed. :)
Second, out of respect for letting your thoughts go relatively unchallenged, we'll concede your point about a daily newspaper's music reviews are aimed at "The General Public" in order to give them some sense of what they might be in for when coughing up their bucks for "Americana". Here we can say that Neil Young's music hasn't really ever been aimed at "The John Q. General Public of Americana". As we all know, the genre hopping, inconsistent, willfully anti-consumer friendly, ditch style has been Neil's modus operandi ever since he went to Number #1 back in the 1970's with "Heart of Gold" and he's never looked back.
Daily newspapers and the mass media in general will always be targeted towards the lowest common denominator of "The John Q. General Public of Americana" who -- as we know -- have been so heavily propagandized as to no longer be able to distinguish Truth, Love, Freedom and Beauty.
And for those who "get" Neil, sometimes all they can do is just light a candle, sing a song and get behind the wheel. Trust us, worlds are colliding. We see it everyday right here on the front row of TW.
So how about it "The John Q. General Public of Americana" and Rusties of the world? What do you guys really think?