Neil Young / Crazy Horse: Barn album review

Neil Young is standing on the porch, smoking weed, waiting for someone else to show up. This is the basic premise of “They Might Be Lost”, the strangest, looser song and therefore the epitome of barn, his latest album. (Young’s discography itself is odd and loose enough that contextualizing barn in the usual way seems futile, but if you have to know, this is his 41st studio effort, and 14th with Crazy Horse, his most loyal backing band.) Young wrote “They Might Be Lost” quickly and intuitively and didn’t give the group much time to rehearse it, a first-thought-best-thought approach that permeates barn.

You can hear him in the three-chord progression that repeats throughout the song, a rickety scaffolding even by 21st century Neil standards, and in his initial contentment with leaving whatever is close at hand. guide his subject: the headlights through the trees, the call announcing that the latecomers have just left the highway. It can all be fascinating to those of us who have spent years of our lives investing in Young’s distorted and shaggy psyche, but I wouldn’t necessarily encourage an outsider to check it out. Still, there’s a little revelation here, if you’re willing to follow the trail that emerges from the tip of his joint: “The smoke I burn keeps taking me back to the good old days / The jury’s out on the right one.” old days, you know / Judgment is coming soon.

“The jury is out on the good old days” is the closest thing Young suggests to a thesis statement for. barn, an album which, like much of his later works, has a complicated relationship with nostalgia. “Heading West”, the heartily catchy second song, invokes “the good old days” explicitly and generously in its memories of a first guitar and an afternoon of pulling a cart through the neighborhood. “Change Ain’t Never Gonna”, is for people who cling to an idealized story despite the desperate need for progress, imagining a “great conspiracy” to take away their freedom and “prevent them from living as they do. ‘have always lived “. Young is critical of these people, but as a guy who is often engrossed in his own journey down memory lane, he’s not totally unfriendly. The tonal balance reminds me Greendale, her 2003 concept album about a young environmental activist whose radical visions drive her from the idyllic but parochial town where she grew up. Now, instead of attributing his conflicting opinions to a group of opinionated townspeople, he simply says what he feels, allowing the contradictions to speak for themselves.

Despite his elaborate narrative, or perhaps because of him, Greendale also marked a shift towards brutal simplicity rather than a soft melody in Young’s compositional approach, a feeling that the urgency of the message meant more to him than the music that carried it. Over the next two decades, this turning point became more and more definitive. Young’s stylistic bustle and commitment to the rawness of the moment can sometimes overshadow the fact that at his best, he’s a melodist in the Carole King or Paul McCartney realm. But on barn, like on many recent predecessors, the tunes meander along the most obvious routes of the chords behind them, rarely going anywhere in particular, and hardly ever taking the kind of daring twists that might lodge them in your heart. and your mind.

It doesn’t appear to be a case where Young lost touch, but the result of a deliberate decision to prioritize immediacy over craft. “I don’t sit down to play the guitar and sing the song. I could sing a verse, or think about it while I’m playing, maybe humming or something. Then I write all the words and try to never do it again until it’s recorded with the band, ”he said. Rolling stone about “They could be lost”. According to a Washington post interview, he wrote “Human Race”, a rocker with crazy eyes on climate change, while walking to the converted barn that served as Crazy Horse’s recording studio, and recorded the version that ended up on the album when it got there. Both songs gain something from the roughness of their presentation. “They Might Be Lost” has a dreamlike, half-improvised quality similar to that of Bob Dylan Basement Tapes, the feeling of a group looking for something without really knowing what it is. The frenzy of “Human Race” suits its terrible lyrics, and could have been blunted with too much time spent working on issues. But neither seems to be built to last. It would be pointless asking Young of all artists to repeat himself – just ask David Geffen about it. Nonetheless, I will humbly suggest that good songs don’t just come from scribbled rants and afternoon musings. You have to work with them.

Good songs aren’t exactly what Young is looking for. Barn. Roughness and smoothness have been as important to his music as beauty and brevity, especially when working with Crazy Horse, since at least the 1972s. Everyone knows it’s nowhere his first album with the group. (It doesn’t matter that “Cinnamon Girl” has a sweet melody to accompany her famous one-note guitar solo.) And if you like the peculiar racket these four men make when they get together—barn is Crazy Horse’s second album featuring Neil Nils Lofgren’s collaborator on second guitar, following the departure of longtime member Frank Sampedro. Barn. These sound like a first or second take, with little to no overdubs, a recording style well suited to the band’s proudly unrefined groove. It’s always a thrill when Young’s fuzz guitar burns the surfaces of drummer Ralph Molina’s and bassist Billy Talbot’s pounding rhythms, even if you’ve heard them do it a million times before. And the laid-back setting brings a welcome bit of humor to Young, like when a half-yodel on the chorus of “Shape of You” seasons. a backyard reunion between old and beloved friends.

Young’s new songs may be blunt instruments than his old ones, but he hasn’t lost any of his grace or delicacy as the lead guitarist. If there is a track of barn that deserves to be canonized is “Welcome Back”, whose eight-minute simmer gives it plenty of room to stretch out. Between the verses delivered with the muffled intensity of a beat poet, he achieves a level of expressiveness on his instrument that is far beyond what he gathered as a songwriter for Barn, make a thunderous drama with small handfuls of notes, using subtleties of dynamics and articulation to tell stories where words fail. “Welcome Back” is also where the album’s deliberately half-formed aesthetic materializes most. We can hear Neil’s band members listening to his musical direction, communicating without saying when to come forward and when to fall back, together imagining the shape of the performance in real time. There isn’t much chorus to say, but the sung chorus sums it up barnS complicated relationship with the past and his use of familiar sounds in the relentless pursuit of something present and new: “Welcome, welcome / This is not the same.” “

Buy: Crude Trade

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