Another great album from Young and his rawest of backing bands.
David Quantick 2012
Rock legends aren’t supposed to crank out albums like emergency sausages during a picnic glut. They’re meant to be enigmatic and irregular, like Kate Bush, or Bob Dylan. But in fact, those two acts have released more albums in recent years than Coldplay and U2, who cautiously drop a record every few years like they’re trying to hold their talent in.
Neil Young, arguably our greatest functioning rock legend, is almost incontinent with talent. Psychedelic Pill is his second album this year which, along with his concurrently-released autobiography, suggests either that he’s on a major creative high or that he’s still in a 1960s-style record contract, under which bands like The Beatles and the Rolling Stones put out an album every few months.
Psychedelic Pill sees Neil with his rawest backing band, the superb Crazy Horse. Young’s bout of autobiography and his apparent decision to stop taking drugs all the time have also affected this record, which manages to be both loud and epic as well as contemplative and nostalgic, like an atom bomb that enjoys reminiscing.
Psychedelic Pill conforms to all Young’s rules of eccentricity. Opener Drifting Back is 27 minutes long; there are two only slightly different versions of the title track; and one song, the 16-minute Walk Like a Giant, starts with mass whistling.
Along the way there’s the country honk of Born in Ontario and the reflective Twisted Road (“Listening to the Dead on the radio / That old time music used to soothe my soul”). The graceful giant that is For the Love of Man has faint echoes of The First Cut Is the Deepest.
This isn’t a conventional album by the standards of today, but it’s fantastic. Crazy Horse are the perfect band for this sort of plaintive noise, carrying both Young’s simple melodies and his love of stretching out with equal ease.
And while everything here is good, it’s Driftin’ Back’s epic wistfulness, with its long but tense solos and extraordinary lyrics (“Don’t want my mp3”; “I’m gonna get me a hip hop haircut”) which will end up on the compilation collections of the future.
A great album and, as noted, his second this year. Everyone else, take note: release more records and you might get good at it.