With news of a new Neil Young album it’s difficult not to wonder which Neil we’re going get this time. In a 40 plus year career he’s offered up some legendary albums and also some real turkeys. For every After The Goldrush there’s Everybody’s Rocking. One useful indication is the presence of his rock band Crazy Horse. Neil loves them for their feel, and their willingness to stick to a groove and allow him to solo endlessly over the top. There’s no denying Crazy Horse bring out the best in Neil primarily because they make him get electric.
Which leads us to Psychedelic Pill, and from the opening chords of the twenty seven and a half minute Drifting Back it’s clear that Neil is back where he belongs, wielding epic ramshackle garage jams into the ether. There’s something reassuring about finding him here, big loud, noisy, loose and lumbering, lost in a reverie, guitar flailing in full flight, buoyed by Crazy Horse’s rough hewn energy.
Psychedelic Pill is an album drowning in reflection and aging, possibly the overflow from his recent autobiography Waging Heavy Peace. He rails against Mp3’s, the commercialization of art, and the death of the hippy dream, yet also tips his hat to Dylan, and delivers a rousing tune about his birthplace in Ontario.
At 87 plus minutes, Psychedelic Pill is Neil’s longest album, a double disc set providing plenty of space between the extended hypnotic riffs for a man intent on looking backwards. In fact it’s the combination of earnest nostalgia and ragged anthemic playing that makes Psychedelic Pill so rewarding, demonstrating that as a unit Neil and Crazy Horse still have something to say. “She likes to burn,” he offers on She’s Always Dancing, and the same could be said for Neil. Four decades on and he’s still playing with matches.