Neil Young

Peace Trail

Written by: MIN on 19/01/2017 17:10:33

My deep adoration for Neil Young is no secret: whether he makes deep, soulful country and folk music, politically active rock n’ roll or guitar-fuzzing jam sessions, the Godfather of grunge (almost) always delivers. There are some computerized records that were a little too fond of the use of synthesizers during the 80s, and obviously some records are better than others throughout this legend’s 50+ years long career, but one thing that’s a constant in Young’s life – and especially in his music – is his playfulness, curiosity and skill. The good ol' Canadian even showed his impressive prowess once again at this year’s Roskilde Festival with a bunch of much younger musicians, proving once more that he’s not afraid to take risks. However, on his newest solo album, “Peace Trails”, it honestly feels like Neil Young has missed the mark, both in regards to the music at hand and in terms of pure passion.

You can’t say that Young’s heart isn’t in the right place. Most of the album’s themes center on America’s exploitation of the Native Americans’ land and on racial issues currently occupying the U.S.A. “Terrorist Suicide Hang Gliders” is told from the perspective of ‘the angry, white man’ who’s new neighbor has a different background than he does himself, and “Indian Givers” focuses on the government and the rich having taken everything that’s not theirs for almost 500 years. However, other songs are just painfully average or even bad in terms of lyricism. “My New Robot” is probably some kind of criticism of modern technology, but it’s just flat-out weird. Do you know that episode, “Be Right Back”, from the TV-show Black Mirror? Well, basically the song sounds like a parody of that. It’s about Neil Young having lost a loved one and thus decides to order a robot off which he can program into his new spouse (now with extra vocoder!). As you might imagine, the result is nothing spectacular.

What’s worst, however, is that most of the songs on “Peace Trail” are just boring. “John Oaks” has the potential to be a gripping story about a man standing up for the immigrants, but the slow tempo and uneventful musicianship makes it fall flat on its face. Songs like “Can’t Stop Working” where – you probably guessed it – Young sings about rather doing something with his hands than just sit around doing nothing, doesn’t make the listen any smoother. Most of the music throughout is simply just too monotonous. Drummer Jim Keltner seldom gets to play anything but a steady beat, and too rarely is any of Young’s usually remarkable acoustic guitar playing elevated to anything but a few casual strums. There is some nice harmonica playing and distorted guitar now and then – especially on the album’s titel-track, which probably serves as the record’s best one – but it’s not enough to make “Peace Trails” interesting to anyone but Neil Young’s already existent fans.

“Peace Trail” certainly has its ups and downs, but unfortunately the ladder takes up most of the space. As a fan of the man’s work, there’ll always be something worthwhile for me even if he farts in a cup and hands it to me, but objectively there’s not much redemption to be found. But I like the fact that he’s still trying to raise awareness about certain political and social issues, even after all these years. Although some ideas work better than others, you can never take that away from him. The album ultimately suffers from feeling too rushed, both in regards to production and song-writing, and it’s difficult to hear the nerve that’s usually dominating Young’s records. But look long enough and you’ll find it.


Download: Peace Trail
For The Fans Of: Bob Dylan; Crosby, Stills & Nash; Buffalo Springfield; The Grateful Dead

Release date 09.12.2016
Reprise Records

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