Music

Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Psychedelic Pill

Psychedelic Pill is an exercise in consistency, illustrating that delivering the formula that has always seemed to work for Young’s fans is safe but satisfying.


Neil Young & Crazy Horse

Psychedelic Pill

Label: Reprise
US Release Date: 2012-10-30
Amazon
iTunes

Psychedelic Pill is Neil Young’s 35th studio album and his second this year with longtime collaborators Crazy Horse. That bears repeating, if for no other reason than even casual listeners of the legend’s corpus know several of his records by heart. The sonic territory on Young’s latest is perhaps a bit too expansive to be considered iconic or essential, but it proves that the 66-year-old rocker shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.

There’s a great deal of nostalgia coursing through Psychedelic Pill both lyrically and sonically. When it comes to guitar tone, no one has quite the consistency that Young has had over his over five decades of studio output. Tonally, guitars sound as bright as they did on Young’s 1975 album with Crazy Horse, Zuma, which will be a pleasant surprise to many who cherish that era of his work. Listeners should be warned, though: this is a long record. Clocking in at almost 90 minutes over two discs, there’s quite a lot of material to handle. And folks should strap in when they listen to Psychedelic Pill. The first track, “Driftin’ Back", runs in excess of 27 minutes.

“Ramada Inn", another long song that clock in at over 16 minutes, pays respect to a woman who was with him in the “many joys raisin’ up those kids", which makes the song a bit of a aural love letter to his wife, Pegi. The searing guitars on this track are especially notable and do the talking when Young pauses from waxing sentimental.

The title track on the record might be the most innovative Neil has been with his guitar tone in quite a while. The guitar trickery found on the song (mostly due to flanger effects that swirl behind a pounding riff that could only be the signature of Young) is among some of the best work Young has done in recent years.

“Born in Ontario” manages to pay homage to his Canadian roots without resorting to nationalism. It’s here that Young and company get close to the classic sound of Crazy Horse found on earlier records. Although endearingly autobiographical (the track includes several references to Young leaving Ontario for the United States), the song seems built for radio. The lyrics found on the song aren’t Young’s most riveting or philosophically sophisticated, but they show that not every song on the record has to rely on abstract lyrical content.

If listeners aren’t exhausted by disc one of Psychedelic Pill (and they shouldn’t be – it’s an incredibly enjoyable unit onto itself), there’s plenty of excellent material on the second half of the record. “Twisted Road", the song that leads off the second disc, is a tribute of sorts to Young’s contemporaries in the rock word. The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, and Roy Orbison are the objects of Young’s fascination here. Soothing vocal harmonies and calculated guitar noodling keep this other sure-fire single focused.

There are other songs on the second half of Psychedelic Pill that harken to the earlier works of Young and Crazy Horse. “Walk Like a Giant", the third song on the album that is longer than 16 minutes, finds Young mimicking the heavier rock he was experimenting with a few decades ago. The last few minutes of the track is largely noise, but that doesn’t mean the song is a throw away. That’s hardly the case. There are inflections here of “Like a Hurricane” from 1977’s American Stars and Bars with the crunchy rhythm guitars and searing leads.

Psychedelic Pill isn’t Neil Young’s best record with Crazy Horse. It might not even be a better record than this year’s Americana depending on one’s preferences. Nevertheless, it’s important to stress that Psychedelic Pill doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. The record is an exercise in consistency, illustrating that delivering the formula that has always seemed to work for Young’s fans is safe but satisfying.

7

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image