With the exception of Fridays and the holidays, I don’t normally put on music based on the situation. But as 2012 drew to a close, I found myself listening to Neil Young’s Psychedelic Pill quite often, probably every couple of days. And why was that?
The question remained unanswered until just a few days ago when it struck me: it was the sheer relentlessness of Crazy Horse. As a kind of metaphor for the (similarly relentless) passage of time, there was some part of my subconscious that was drawn in. And yes, I do believe that “relentless” is a near-perfect description of what Neil Young with Crazy Horse does. What they lack in subtlety is more than made up in sheer, bracing drive. They’re the tunnel-boring machine of rock & roll.
Adding to the music’s kinetic aspects are Young’s always assured ideas about the link between the past and the future. Sure, there were disappointments in the past as well as plenty of reasons for nostalgia, but that never seems to stop Neil. It’s actually one of the things that I’ve admired about the guy throughout the decades. He has an idea and just goes with it. For some (including a lot of true fans), the results (read: The Geffen Years) lead to a lot of head-scratching.
But this is where I’ve always trusted Neil the most. Whether he’s going on about Dylan while quoting The Band on “Twisted Road,” or reminiscing about goals from the past (and regretting the lost opportunities) on “Walk Like A Giant,” Young appears to not want to give in. He’s not just slumming with those ghosts from the 60s, he’s instead showing how his relationship to them must inevitably affect the future.
This attitude displays a certain hopeful outlook that the world can certainly use more of. That it comes with the world’s most fearsome rock & roll tunnel-boring machine is just a plus in my book.