Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Psychedelic Pill - REPRISE
FILTER Grade: 82%
By A.D. Amorosi on November 6, 2012
Never at a loss for words (or material), Neil Young has spent 2012 touring with stalwart noisemakers Crazy Horse, dropping an album of clunky cover tunes (Americana) and unleashing his blog-like autobiography (Waging Heavy Peace) before approaching this two-CD/three-LP epic. Like much of this quartet’s past work, the Crazy Horse–Neil Young teaming brings out the basement jam in all concerned. They’re like kids smoking weed and cranking up amps while considering life’s headiest topics.
Not for the fainthearted or short of attention, several of Psychedelic Pill’s tracks drag on—wildly and intoxicatingly, of course, so there’s little room for boredom to set in (but, still, at 27 minutes, the bracingly bold opener “Driftin’ Back” could have used some editing). Starting with the lonely acoustic strum of Young alone “dreaming about the way things sound now” (a constant topic of this album, and his book), that first minute or so is the last bit of quiet listeners will get until Ralph Molina, Billy Talbot, Poncho Sampedro and Young head toward album’s end.
Together, they drive “Driftin’ Back” into clanging, jamming distraction with Young yelping about MP3s, hip-hop haircuts and the writing process while his pals sing gooey, creaky harmonies behind him. After that lengthy, cluttered, deconstructed diatribe, the expansive solo-heavy likes of “Ramada Inn” are positively relaxing, spacious and filled psychically and psychedelically by Young’s surprisingly passionate narrative about the negative aspects of alcohol on a strained relationship.
Freer spirits and passed heroes nobly fill up Young’s head space on “She’s Always Dancing” and “Twisted Road,” while “Born in Ontario” (disc one’s closing track) acts as the countrified wrap up to all of Psychedelic Pill’s headaches and heart swells. “Once in a while, when things go wrong/I pick up a pen, scribble on a page/Try to make sense of my inner rage,” moans Young, considering his roots and wrongs and calming his inner, savage beasts. As always.