Sunday, May 07, 2006

Mister Fanboy Music Review: Neil Young's Living With War

Neil Young is pissed off and hopes you are too. If not, he hopes he can take you along in his tour de force bitch-slap of Bush, Dick, Rummy, Condi, and the rest.

From recent interview with Rocker Neil Young, we learn that he has been waiting for the last few years for a younger singer/songwriter to question the actions of the Bush Administration. Young, mired in the activism from the 60s and 70s and never a sell-out, is probably expecting too much from today's money-grubbing showbiz types. So, Young has stepped up to the plate with his most recent album, Living With War, which was just released. He has created a protest album, the likes of which haven't been seen in a while. Sure, others musical protesters have been active. Billy Bragg comes to mind, but he's more Britain-centered.

Green Day came close with their recent album, and even the Dixie Chicks are speaking out, in this case about the same thing.

Eminem even got into thre act with a song about the 2004 Election implying that his fans should vote for Kerry. Do Eminem fans, as a general rule, even know how to vote? I think not.

What has Neil Young so pissed off? The title to track #7 should give you a clue: Let's Impeach The President. Living With War is a relentless attack on the Bush Administration. Already, many critics have been quick to point out that Young is a Canadian. For those of you that are geographically challenged. Canada is another country. Just to our North.Yes he is, but he's lived in this country as long as I've been alive. Further, those who point this out are critics of the political variety and who they hell cares what they think about music. Am I the only one who thinks Ann Coulter is a whacked out skank? It's also worth pointing out that Young vocally supported the Patriot Act when it was first passed, a move which didn't likely endear him to the ACLU.

Some reviewers have faulted the album's sound as too bombastic. I understand what they are saying, but I would have to disagree. I think they're comparing the "sound" to that of "Rockin' In the Free World," Young's late 80s call for the fall of the Berlin Wall (before it actually happened). In this reviewers opinion, it probably the greatest rock anthem even recorded, not that I could define what a rock anthem really is.But in this reviewers opinion, that's a very good thing. In listening to this album, admittedly drawn to its ire towards the Bushites, I had a feeling of what can only be described as Blue Collar Rocking Out. I had visions of denim, unions, lots of beer, and Springsteen.

Lyrically, Young pulls no punches. On the title track, he says:

And when the dawn breaks, I see my fellow man
And on the flat-screen we kill and we're killed again
And when the night falls, I pray for peace
Try to remember peace
I join the multitudes
I raise my hand in peace
I never bow to the laws of the thought police

Young continues the lambasting in "Restless Consumer:"

A hundred voices from a hundred lands
Need someone to listen
People are starving here and there
The don't see the world the way you do
There's no mission accomplished here
Just death to thousands
A hundred voices from a hundred lands
Cry out in unison

The storytelling that Young has perfected in his most recent work Greendale, where he sings/writes through the eyes of a character, is almost non-existent here. Imagine the Peter Falk character from The Princess Bride, without the Jewishness. One exception is "Flags of Freedom," where the story of a young man going off to war, presumably in Iraq, told by his worried parents.

To be sure, "Let's Impeach the President" will get the most notice. For better or worse, Young may have created a lighting rod that will resonate on both sides of the political spectrum. All of the armchair liberals will sing-along in admiration, while sipping their $5 lattes. The neocons will pillory Young for being another example of "foreign interference" in American politics. Although there may be ample evidence to get the President impeached, there don't appear to be the political will. That will not likely change if the Democrats win even just one house of Congress.

But it's not just Iraq that irritates Young, as this song makes clear. Lying to the American public about the reasons for the Iraq War, the secrecy of the Bush administration, illegal wiretapping, the cluster-fuck that was the Katrina response, and the hijacking of Christianity by the fundamentalists are all cited by Young. He further jabs the President in the song by saying, "Thank God he's cracking down on steroids."

And if this album encourages just one more person to reevaluate their relationship with the administration, then I am sure Young will have done the job he set out to do.

Album Grade: B+/A-


Post a Comment

<< Home