Times have changed a lot since Neil Young began his music career in the mid-sixties but Young’s keen awareness of the times hasn’t. And if he’s passionate about what he sees in front of him, you’ll likely see him put out music about it when the issue is still fresh in people’s minds. On May 4, 1970, the Kent State shootings occurred; before the end of the month, Young’s poignant “Ohio” was on the radio airwaves.
Today, the auto industry is getting a lot of focus as longtime behemoths General Motors and Chrysler stand on the precipice and the fresh memories of $4 per gallon gas has renewed interest in developing commercially viable vehicles using alternative fuels. Young, whose had a long reputation for a love of cars (his 1976 song “Long May You Ride” is an ode to a hearse he once owned), seized on this focus to rush out another record on a timely theme, Fork In The Road.
Out earlier this month, Fork dovetails with Young’s crusade “to inspire a generation by creating a clean automobile propulsion technology that serves the needs of the 21st Century and delivers performance that is a reflection of the driver’s spirit. By creating this new power technology we hope to reduce the demand for petro-fuels enough to eliminate the need for war over energy supplies, thereby enhancing the security of the USA and other nations throughout the world.” Toward that end, Young had his 1959 Lincoln Continental repowered using hybrid electric technology, producing zero emissions and achieving 100 mpg. This rolling aircraft carrier has been rechristened the LincVolt.
The songs on this album are largely about the LincVolt, and Young’s plain-speaking lyrical style means he doesn’t get coy with meanings behind them. The musical part is pretty much the same: crunchy, raw, and direct. Honest and gutty rock ‘n’ roll is what you get from Neil Young, whether it’s 1969 or 2009.
“Fuel Line” is just like that. It begins with a guitar so fuzzy, it sounds like one of those old Tudor electric football games. Played in a basic blues structure against the backdrop of a stomping beat, Young belts out a little promo for his LincVolt:
Her engine’s running and the fuel is clean
She only uses it ’cause she’s a machine
She don’t use much though, just to get around
The refrain is just a nasty but hooky guitar riff played every time he shouts “Fill ‘er up!” Hey, it ain’t sophisticated, but he gets the message across…both in words and music. You wouldn’t expect anything different from the ultimate anti-rock star.
Now, if Mr. Young actually does succeed in becoming a catalyst for the development of technology that weans America from its addiction to oil, well, that accomplishment would eclipse even Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, in my humble opinion.
“One Track Mind” is a more-or-less weekly drool over a single song selected on a whim and a short thesis on why you should be drooling over it, too.