Thursday, November 1, 2012

Psychedelic Pill

1. Driftin' Back
The longest song in Neil's repertoire, at a whopping 27 minutes. I turned up the volume before diving in, bracing myself for 'impact'. But there wasn't no sound of thunder. Instead it was the gentle strumming on the acoustic guitar. Before you know it, Crazy Horse gallops in, in all its ragged glory. It's a rough, bumpy ride; at times you can hear either drummer Ralph Molina or bassist Billy Talbot trying to keep up with the music. But that's the Horse will all know and love. Half the time Neil laments on how today's corporations and technology are destroying art, and longs for the old golden days when it wasn't about just the money. "When you hear my song now, you only hear 5% / You used to get it all." This could only mean one thing. Support and buy Pono when it comes out next year! The plain two-chord progression has a very calming effect though, and it gives me visions of euphoria. 

2. Psychedelic Pill
The extreme phasing stereo effects induce sonic psychedelia. Sign Of Love (2010) guitar riff paired with Fuckin' Up drum licks. It's actually pretty stunning. Good 'ol classic Horse in under four minutes. The bonus alternative mix has minus the studio trickery; it's definitely more listenable, but the essence of what the song is about is lost.

3. Ramada Inn
The next longest song on the album happens to be one of the Horse's absolute best tunes ever recorded. The more I listen to it, the shorter it feels. I wouldn't mind if the jam went on another ten more minutes. And just like Driftin' Back, it has all the elements of what makes Neil such a great improvisational and melodic guitar player; he plays really mean, focused solos here. Poncho, as usual, does what he does best. He's an average guitar player, but he somehow manages to support Neil in a mystical way in which only he can do. This is a perfectly crafted Crazy Horse song, in the beautiful spirit of Cortez The Killer.

4. Born In Ontario
I like when Neil sings about growing up, but unfortunately this one doesn't click with me. I'm not feeling the melody at all. The only thing I dig is the organ. 

5. Twisted Road
Another autobiographical tune. But compared to the previous one, this is so much better. A homage to Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Grateful Dead, done garage style. For the first time, Neil is penning all these songs without the influence of weed or alcohol (as mentioned in his book) -- he's doing a good job so far. And is it just me or does this have a bit of a Friend Of The Devil vibe?

6. She's Always Dancing
Same vein as Like A Hurricane, though not as epic. The awesome run of solos continues. It's still terrific despite the too-simplistic lyrics. I love it.

7. For Love Of Man
The most un-Crazy Horse song, originally written in the '80s. Slow, brooding and moving. It's obvious he's singing about his disabled son, Ben Young, also his spiritual guide, a term he occasionally uses in his book. Reminds me much of Western Hero, from Sleeps With Angels (1994), criminally underrated by the way.

8. Walk Like A Giant
Neil brings home the theme from Driftin' Back in the closing number, and has the band firing on all cylinders once again. Neil likes looking back a lot on this record, doesn't he? As a young man living through the '60s and '70s, he and his friends thought they could change and save the world. They felt invincible. But shit happened ("the weather changed and the white got stained"). The music ends on a devastating note, a continuous, near-painful bombardment of noise and feedback, resulting in nothing but broken dreams and promises.

Overall, Psychedelic Pill is close to flawless, no matter how flawed musically the Horse may be, or even despite the many similar riffs rehashed from past work. Neil's voice is still in top shape. By now, we should already know what to expect from the Horse....the long jams, the feedback, the occasional off-timings and off-keys, the unrelenting power, and the undying SOUL. Yet they never fail to surprise us. Neil has finally let them out of the barn; I mean you can REALLY smell them this time, unlike in Americana, released back in June. Kick-ass album title to boot -- it simply screams out: listen to me! It's their best since Ragged Glory. Crank the hell out of it.