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Friday, April 05, 2013

Walk On: Neil Young - From the Buffalo to the Pill

Neil Young

A very major retrospective on Neil Young from the liminal "Walk On: Neil Young - From the Buffalo to the Pill" by Joseph Burnett:
Weirdly, however, Neil Young is these days an even more polarising figure, be it among his fans or music listeners at large, than he was back when he wrote ‘Southern Man’ and ‘Alabama’ to castigate racism in the Deep South.

For many, his decision to seclude himself at his Californian ranch for most of his post-seventies recordings and the increased comfort of his life (marriage, kids, cars, model trains, etc) has led to a dip in songwriting quality and musical standards, with lyrics -usually focusing on war, the environment and eternal love for his wife, Pegi- dashed off as if written on the backs of cigarette packets (which he does a lot, actually). Whilst there’s some truth to this complaint (gone -mostly- are the psychedelically surreal and oddly poetic rambles of ‘Ambulance Blues’ and ‘Cowgirl in the Sand’), it actually seriously misses the point and the bigger picture. Because, even as he becomes more settled into his stable country life (hence all the love songs and ecological concerns), away from the drugs, illness and instability of the sixties and seventies, he still remains rock’s eternal maverick, a constantly contrarian spirit who approaches his life and his music the way he always has, and in the same manner: on his own motherfucking terms. You don’t like a new direction, or some of his new lyrics? Tough shit. Neil Young just keeps on rolling, and in that he is both fascinating and, I swear, as consistent as he’s ever been. The differences between the Neil Young of 2012 and the one of 1966 are of course there, but not as important as they might seem.

It’s where he connects with his eternal muse that Neil Young stands tall, which is handy for me as I sit down to write this tribute.
Thanks Joseph! An excellent career retrospective.

Full article "Walk On: Neil Young - From the Buffalo to the Pill" by Joseph Burnett.



At 4/05/2013 08:03:00 PM, Blogger Pinto (or Flounder) said...

No, that is not an intelligent, or even coherent, viewpoint. What it says, if you bother to,take the time to dig through the bullshit, is:

It doesn't matter whether Neil is recording a masterpiece or an aural collage of his farts because, ya know, Neil is just doing his thing and he doesn't give a shit if you like it or not."

And this site has always been more inclined toward the worship of farts than the realization that while Fork in the Road may be farts, Psychedelic Pill may be a masterpiece.

I've been away for awhile. Good to see that nothing's changed.

At 4/05/2013 09:10:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Au contraire, flounder. Everybody knows your own farts smell better- bumper stickers should be issued!

At 4/05/2013 10:14:00 PM, Blogger Pinto (or Flounder) said...

Repeat after me

Fewer drugs

That's all

At 4/06/2013 09:21:00 AM, Blogger SONY said...

"on his own motherfucking terms"

'nuff said.

At 4/07/2013 11:51:00 AM, Anonymous Pieceofcrap said...

Boy, are we grumpy..
Yeah, you can disagree with his viewpoint (ok, so Neil is consistent in his approach to music, recording and audience expectations.. Consistency is not necessarily a virtue, right?) It's the art that counts.
But does this piece say that everything NY has put out has been great? Au contraire, my friend, if you'll pardon my French. This guy knows what he's talking about and doesn't hold back on some of the junk NY put out over the last 30 odd years (read again what he says about Fork In The Road and other bummers).
Overall, I think it's a pretty well informed and balanced piece, true to NY's work and life, giving a good analysis of his lyrical and musical history, and, what a relief, not turning a blind eye to the weaker spots (ahem), as some hard core fans here still like to do...
So where's the bullshit? I only got some minor nitpicking to do: the lyric in Don't Be Denied is "pauper in a naked disguise" (although "puppet" would work as well, who knows), and From Hank to Hendrix is not a song about a car (wife and guitar, more likely...)
Oh yeah, and Sony, too bad about the "motherfucking", you're right, big talk doesn't suit this perceptive and gentle soul (but have you read Mcdonough?)

At 4/07/2013 11:59:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@P (or F) - it's been about 7 years or so now? Where have you been? Doesn't seem like anythings changed with you and your fixation.

@PoC - exactly, which is why we blogged the tribute. It really is a very solid piece. For one thing, it reminded us about the Harvest lyrics and Carrie's mother.

Sure one can always nitpick things, which is fine and what makes the back & forth so important to getting us closer to the light.

At 4/07/2013 12:16:00 PM, Anonymous Pieceofcrap said...

Reading it again, I think it's a GREAT piece, coherent in its vision of NY's work and 'method', and full of insightful comments on songs and albums. The recurring comparison to Lou Reed is intriguing, and fun. Also, his remarks on NY's lyrics are spot on, I think. There's not much intelligent stuff being written about NY's lyrics (maybe cos they're not so intelligent..), at least not since Randy Newman spilled the beans, so thanks for this wonderful piece. And thank you for posting it, Thrasher.

At 4/09/2013 08:39:00 AM, Anonymous KenSA said...

Lou Reed once said his fave song was Dangerbird, I also enjoyed the comparisons with Lou & Iggy.

Saw Stooges & Neil in the same fortnight last month, and even though Iggy is still fantastic, Neil is the one that I consider still "alternative", not relying on the nostalgia but still pushing the boundaries. Of all my old heroes few release anything anymore I can listen to more than once (and I do listen to everything). Yet Psy Pill is on constant rotation in my house. Neil remains relevant coz he documents the cycle of life, and we ain't teenagers anymore. Of course not everything works for everyone -Fork in The Road isn't very inspiring, but at least he hasn't given up. Seeing PIL next week - goin for the nostalgia, coz I doubt Mr Rotten has much new to say (will he burn out or fade away?).

While many doubters complained about the Horse jammin' all tight knit and not spread out like a true cock rock act, I saw a true garage band, hemmed in by the oversize speakers, bustin it out like they were trapped in the confines of the back shed. The Stooges could have been more appropriate in the big entertainment centre I saw the Horse in, and the Horse should have played in the old quaint punky theatre that the Stooges played in.

Good concise article by a fan and not a critic/journo that conveys the essence of Neil very appropriately and summarizes his work well for those that haven't or can't be bothered reading Shakey - (although true fans would read everything they can get their hands on..)


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