Musical Accompaniment – Psychedelic Pill by Neil Young with Crazy Horse
“I used to dig Picaso/ Oh Hey Now Now, I‘m Driftin’ Back/ I’m Driftin’ Back”
Neil Young is one of those amazingly rare artists who hit big young but has also lived long enough to see the impact of that career ripple out through the culture, long enough to look upon and chart the rise and subsequent fall of his predecessors, peers, progeny and the pop-stars of today too, long enough that he no longer has anything left to prove. For many this perspective robs an artist of their power, potency inexorably linked to presentness, but to my mind it must be liberating and Psychedelic Pill plays like the later, it is the work of a man liberated from all the link’s in life’s many chains and that is why I love it.
“I Used to Walk Like a Giant/Now I Feel Like A Leaf Floating in the Stream”
You need look no further for sign of this than in the albums opening track, which runs for a whopping half hour on its own. You could argue that Young’s old age renders the creative merit of Psychadelic Pill irrelevant but I would argue that it is this track that does this. Driftin’ Back isn’t just a song, it’s not just an album but a career unto itself: looking back at his past, across at his recently released book and forward to a future after his demise and that of musical integrity. The song streaks across all of his many melodic and lyrical styles from heavy religious allegory through crowd chanting chorus.
“Me and some of my friends/We were gonna save the world/But then the weather changed/And the white got stained/And it fell apart/And it breaks my heart/But think about how close we came.”
Despite all of that though Driftin’ Back isn’t an epic song, in fact it’s actually a rather small and simple one with very little lyrical meat on its structural bone. This is true too of most of the album’s tracks; Young has seemingly said nearly all that he has to say and so he lets the guitars and their players take pole position throughout. So it’s Crazy Horse, Young’s on-and-off back-up band, that truly shine, their lazily professional licks large and lovingly reminiscent of the good old days when six-strings was all the sound variety a song needed.
“Old time music used to soothe my soul”
I’m starting to sound like something of a seventy year old myself but there’s nothing to be done about it, that negativistic nostalgia is endemic to the album’s vibe but unlike a lot of other recent efforts ( like say, The Suburbs) Neil and Crazy Horse have earned their crotchetiness, they’re properly classic. I love discovering a new band, hearing their new sound and seeing them take new risks as they progress but more and more I’m finding myself falling for the simple and the old-fashioned sounds. I’m sure that the Young of the seventies would have found the idea of being seen as simple, safe or “old-fashioned” but personally I don’t see much wrong with the label; it’s twenty twelve and Psychedelic Pill is sitting alongside Dylan’s Tempest as one of my favorite recent releases. So screw being new when the old is still working this well.