|I feel like I've written the words "epic grunge" before, but never have I thought that phrase as many times during one album, er DOUBLE album, as I have during my spins through the multi-colored ride of Neil Young and Crazy Horse's new album Psychedelic Pill. For what constitutes feature film running time, 90 minutes, Young and the Horse JAM, and at lengthy loudness. Crazy Horse (Billy Talbot on drums, Ralph Molina on bass, and Frank "Poncho" Sampedro on rhythm guitar) have been with Young off and on since the 70s and they always deliver the goods with their sloppy, yet spot on backing grooves. The band allow Neil to be Neil. The wild solos Young fires off over the course of the album are, to put it stupidly, amazing. Could this be Young's best album with Crazy Horse?
What this album is really all about are the monster extended works, "Walk Like a Giant," "Driftin' Back," and "Ramada Inn." Opening the album with the half hour behemoth "Driftin' Back" is just another obstinate Neil Young play. He's basically warning listeners that they're in for a long journey and if the listener prefers his acoustic country-folk tunes of gentle prairie music, they better get the hell outta the way 'cause Psychedelic Pill is an electric guitar OD. The classic stomp of Young and the Horse never lets up on this album, even the softer tunes feel darkly urgent. "Walk Like a Giant" is an instant favorite, complete with a haunting whistled hook and brontosaurs feedback laced guitar skronk (who do these guys think they are, Sonic Youth molesting Pearl Jam?) behind Young's sad tale of his generation's failure to really CHANGE the world...all sixteen minutes of its GIANT pounding heaviness.
Young's lyrically preoccupied with nostalgia and anger on this album. His guitar does most of the talking sure, but when he does sing, he's either looking back to his youth and the records/musicians he's either known and/or loved, or he's desperately trying to reconcile his rage over current affairs (as well as poor quality digital music!). In "Twisted Road" Young, with knockout simple phrasing, recalls hearing Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" and trying to rewrite that tune, but with a twist. In this moment, Young summarizes his basic songwriting approach. The same song mentions listening to the Grateful Dead and musically quotes the guitar riff from their song "Friend of the Devil." The album's title track gave me vertigo. The song is completed flanged out and spins the room as it swerves & dives. I can't listen to it a second time (an alternate mix is included on the album for those who need a second dose to continue the high, but are averse to motion sickness).
Neil Young and Crazy Horse's second album of 2012 is a surprise to me. I love it and I wasn't sure what to think when I read reports of twenty to thirty minute song lengths, but Young has one helluva album here and if long, long, long Neil distorto guitar solos float your boat, then you're in for a special experience. The only thing better than hearing this album will be SEEING it as Young and Crazy Horse hit the road to destroy concert stages all over the land.