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Monday, September 02, 2019

Comment of the Moment: "Milky Way" - Neil Young & Crazy Horse


COLORADO by Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Release Date: October 25, 2019 - Pre-order now
(Please shop locally & independently. But if you can't, we appreciate your supporting Thrasher's Wheat by clicking this link. Thank you!!!)

Last week, Neil Young & Crazy Horse previewed the track "Milky Way" on NYA from their upcoming album COLORADO.

Quite a bit of reaction to the new song and lyrics. The Comment of the Moment is from "Milky Way" on COLORADO, New Album by Neil Young & Crazy Horse by Ian; The Metamorphic Rocker:
At 8/30/2019 11:14:00 AM, Blogger (D.) Ian Kertis; The Metamorphic Rocker said...

In short, I hear many of the echoes or referents that others are picking out. A listener could, if they were so inclined, "read" or analyze the track as a musical pastiche of sorts to previous NY & CH songs and sounds. I think that would be a little unfair, painting with a broad brush so to speak. However, an interesting angle nonetheless.

What others term "the spook", or journey, I think I'll be so bold as to specify as tension. The title songs of "On the Beach" and "Are you Passionate?" deliver this with gusto, and this new "Milky Way" is approaching the same territory. The gradual but persistent rhythm in tandem with Neil's vocals, which I think have grown more edgy as he now must stretch farther for the upper register, reflect perhaps an emotional push-and-pull in both the author and the listener, a mixture of apprehension and giddy anticipation as to where it all will go.

In fact, that's the question I found myself when the vocal started: where is this leading, structurally--the melody and the lyric? NY's lyrics are certainly a grade more prosaic in the past (if I said that he occasionally gets slightly wordy, I'd sure be one to talk!), and one curious facet is to see how the music keeps pace with this challenging departure from a tighter poetic approach grounded in meter and verse.

Since I'm not and rarely have been a student of music theory, my impressions are... well... impressionistic. But then, if NY&CH have any music theory themselves, I'm fairly certain it's of an unorthodox flavor. The music and words drift and even wander a bit, before tautening and leaving this listener's initial questions only partly answered. Which, to be fair, is about the most one can expect from any piece of music, particularly on first encounter.

Above all, I suppose I'm curious to see and hear how "Milky Way" plays into the greater fabric of "Colorado". Am I the only one to notice the word "color" embedded in the name "Colorado"? (Apologies to readers in non-US English-speaking regions; unfortunately, the connection doesn't work perfectly outside of American English.) I'm sure not, but the fascinating counterpoint is that the Youtube video shows what appears to be the album cover, with images presented only in B&W. We know NY is to some extent colorblind, something I in fact didn't learn for some time. Again, not certain of where these connections are taking me, but something is afoot.

Although Oct. 25 is not showing up significantly on the lunar calendar, there will be a new moon due on Oct. 27th. The full moon, one may note, appears on the morning of Nov. 12th.

I did mention that Neil's lyrics have been growing more prosaic. However, I find the message(s) and vibe almost startlingly clear and to-the-point. In that sense, meandering wouldn't apply. Just gave another listen and, for me at least, structure and arc increasingly apparent. Shakey's voice is a bit shakier these days, but the guitars (both Neil and Nils) are in fine form.

At first glance, perhaps not equal to the strongest moments of "The Visitor"--but I found that one, at its best, to be stratospheric. Patience will reveal where "Colorado" rests in the Neil library.

The "Cowgirl" motifs are definitely present, as Richie mentions. However, the overall flavor of the song is different and, for me, that absorbs the passing resemblance. I wouldn't describe the song to a casual or middling fan as being "like Cowgirl", because I think it would set up the wrong expectation.

I do also hear the echoes of AYP?(another song built on tension), but for me that's not an inherent "fail". AYP? the album has its issues--I think I've expounded enough on that in the past, the whole saga from Toast on down. AYP? the song, however, was one of the album's more successful moments and, imho, is quite unfairly overlooked and discarded. It may be one of the neglected gems of NY's latter day catalogue. So, yeah, I don't mind feeling that slow burn again.

Another progenitor, I'd suggest, is "Trans Am" from SWA for its tempo and mood. Which in turn owes something to the winding, lumbering grind of "Danger Bird". None of these touchstones are direct paralleled by "Milky Way". They are more like scattered associations, flashes of the familiar. The kid got his nose from this grandfather, hair like that cousin, etc. Talk of family resemblance shouldn't be taken too literally or precisely.

Maybe we benefit from the occasional cynicism of an Andy or a Robi, balancing out the open-ended appreciations and musings to which some of us are apt. Certainly, it's not infrequently eye-opening to take in everyone's widely variant responses to the same input.

There's a major distinction between prosaic (as I said) and lazy. In this case, the latter is considerably wide of the mark. It seems like the discussion might take a more productive turn if Andy W. could bring some specificity into his reactions/objections, rather than dealing in broad generalities. "Lazy", "sloppy", or "meandering" don't mean that much if unqualified or not supported with details.

I know we're all speaking here about ephemera and subjective impressions, as that's the nature of appreciating and/or interpreting art.

Moreover, comparing every new thing that comes along to the halcyon days, although understandable, will result in a grading curve--and not necessarily a favorable one. At some point, one has to take in what is, rather than what was or may have been--the goal, imho, is to be neither blinded by nostalgia or clouded with disenchantment, which may just be different faces of the same coin after all.

"Watch where you're going, not where you've been" is the version I heard growing up. Nowadays, it seems relevant in more ways than one.
Thanks so much Ian; The Metamorphic Rocker for the well composed thoughts as always! We truly appreciate your thoughts and opinions -- as well as everyone else who thoughtfully participated in respectful discussion.

More on "Milky Way" on COLORADO, New Album by Neil Young & Crazy Horse.

Also, see complete track list for COLORADO.

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20 Comments:

At 9/03/2019 07:21:00 AM, Blogger Jonathan said...

The bridge in Milky Way is the same chord progression as the bridge in Flying On The Ground Is Wrong - Dm-G-C-F - I love it

 
At 9/03/2019 08:46:00 AM, Blogger Flyingscotzman said...

Ian is as eloquent and thoughtful as always, but as he touches on from paragraph nine onwards, I'm not sure why we are all playing this game of "this reminds me of...".

The raw materials that the song is made from matters little compared to how the finished song makes you feel, What themes it revolves around and what journey it takes you on. Change Your Mind and Cowgirl are both cut from the same cloth, but the end results are two entirely different songs with completely different moods and themes.

In other words (and to live up to my reputation of using slightly dubious analogies), you choose a house to live in based on how it makes you feel, not on whether the brickwork is similar to No. 7 down the road.

Scotsman.

 
At 9/03/2019 12:09:00 PM, Blogger downbutnotout said...

Everybody needs too calm down a little, this is just an average plod!
Lyrically basic, the chugging groove of the piece tries to recreate past classics.
But what do we expect, some rocking' masterpiece?
It's all the same song-to coin a phrase.

 
At 9/03/2019 02:04:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Let's go back to Mr Soul and let that song be the reason why Mr Young (and many of us who are sympathetic to his message therein) maintains his disgust towards personal and creative analysation.

Hell...Neil is and continues to be musical treasure. Let's just be happy that he's in his seventies, and continues rockin' in the free world.

 
At 9/03/2019 04:33:00 PM, Blogger Richie Cruz said...

From here on in, I will never compare any new song that Neil writes to any other song that he has written, regardless of whether or not melodies, chord progressions, or lyrics are even remotely similar to anything else the man has done since 1966. I mean, obvious it's foolish and morally wrong to think that a man who has been steadily writing music for over 50 years might compose something that might resemble anything else that he has ever written. Apparently for a lot of the "smarter" "wiser" Neil fanatics, EVERY song he sings, EVERY chord or melody he plays, EVERY statement he makes is totally unique and to think otherwise is wrong.

That new song of his, "Milky Way"? I've never heard a Neil song, not any of the hundreds that he had written, that sounds at all like this. How dare any of us pinheads who don't "understand" Neil as well as his most astute followers even attempt to think otherwise.

 
At 9/03/2019 05:26:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

ok, we think wee might be getting a bit side tracked here.

the original thread went pretty well.

so -- in the spirit of neil -- it's all one song. it's all one comment. it's all one blog post.

it's all good.

agreeing to disagree with disagreements in the name of peace & love

 
At 9/03/2019 06:01:00 PM, Blogger Flyingscotzman said...

I thought the lyric was quite creative and evocative. It's one of those where you get the sense Neil is just exploring, starting tentatively and then branching outwards. And the music reinforces that sensation.

Consciously it is reminiscent of this and that, but the overall feel is of something new and imaginative. It's not one of those tracks that blows you away, but it gets under your skin.

Scotsman.

 
At 9/03/2019 06:02:00 PM, Blogger Flyingscotzman said...

Relax!

Scotsman.

 
At 9/04/2019 10:04:00 AM, Blogger Biteme said...

well, it's one of those tracks that blew ME away, at least. when I saw him play it solo in Spokane from the third row it brought tears to my eyes. the way Neil played that song that night was spellbinding. that whole show was incredible...he was in the zone fer sure.

hey, thrasher, how about you fuckin' apologize to me for that whole "montsanto shill" bullshit? are you a man who can admit when he's wrong, or what??

 
At 9/04/2019 10:48:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

It took me on a journey through the cosmos and was very romantic.

 
At 9/04/2019 01:27:00 PM, Blogger Chris said...

It’s all one song , part of the soundtrack of our lives. I am grateful that the song plays on and on because when it’s over there’s gonna be a deafening silence.

 
At 9/04/2019 04:04:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

Hello to everyone. I am a long time Neil Young fan. I first listened to After the Gold Rush when I was 15, maybe younger. I really only wanted to say that Scotsman is consistently interesting and insightful (not that other people commenting are bad, etc). I also have a hunch of sorts that this record is going to be a break through. We might think a bit about what it is to be 73 and still making music as a "rock star." This is, in a very significant sense, a new aesthetic place. I think Robert Christgau made a similar point when he discussed Mr. Young's song "Change Your Mind" way back in 1994. Middle-aged themes handled in intriguing ways by a brilliant musical mind and person. We have to see if this record resonates in relation to Mr. Young's place in time and with his significant place in modern music. Thank You. JP

 
At 9/05/2019 10:36:00 AM, Blogger Biteme said...

wishful thinking. this album will be the same as all the rest...us fans will buy it and enjoy it, and it will sink like a stone with the general public.

and it looks like I got my answer about ya, thrash. "or what" it is.

 
At 9/05/2019 03:59:00 PM, Blogger Flyingscotzman said...

...there's still time to catch the premiere of the first (acoustic) half of Tim Pope's long-awaited film from the last two nights at the Hammersmith Apollo in 2008, concluding the tour and featuring some really beautiful performances from Neil. It's on NYA right now.

A superior film to Trunk Show from the first leg of the tour? I think so.

Scotsman.

 
At 9/05/2019 04:01:00 PM, Blogger Flyingscotzman said...

Welcome, and thanks for the generous comment JP - your check/cheque is in the mail! ;-)

Scotsman.

 
At 9/05/2019 05:15:00 PM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

You are so right Scotsman. The acoustic set at the Apollo is fantastic. Just finished watching it here at work. Neil was really in the zone.

Peace

 
At 9/06/2019 12:22:00 AM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

Hello Everyone Again, and Scotsman it is easy to be generous to such a wide ranging and interesting commentator. One short comment that is redundant. It is a great and good thing to be especially generous to an artist in the waning days of artistry. Life is very difficult to articulate well at any age. But at an older age it becomes egregiously hard. We should, I think, be spiritual helpers in Neil’s quest. Failure is inevitable for all of us and even more so for those who try to speak something of worth to all of us. I am very glad to be part of this group. Thanks. JP

 
At 9/06/2019 01:44:00 AM, Blogger Andy Walters said...

After the responses to my recent comments I decided to take a back seat until I saw the comment 'journey through the cosmos' - really, stop this nonsense as mentioned it's a plodding mess. Now ban me because I Am The Cosmos !

 
At 9/06/2019 06:26:00 AM, Blogger Happy Andy said...

Ssh Sad Andy, ssh. Remember the Bambi rule.

 
At 9/06/2019 07:02:00 AM, Blogger Peacelover Doc said...

After listening to Milky Way numerous times I'm wondering if Neil's sharing a very personal story. I may be wrong so I'll leave it at that.

 

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