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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Neil Young
Chrome Dreams II

Rating: 4.3/10 ?

February 6, 2008
Listening to the Neil Young of recent times, I've come to expect a few givens: aggressive electric rock, innocuous (with a few exceptions) acoustic tunes, and a tiresome work ethic, a combination which doesn't necessarily lend itself to a consistent level of quality. Protégé Eddie Vedder may have admonished the kids of today to "defend themselves against the 70s," but for Neil Young the decade that gave us Watergate and took away Elvis must seem like a distant oasis. There were some highlights in there, but no amount of great live albums and soundtracks could make up for Trans or Landing on Water or Are you Passionate?. Then, riled by the unbridled arrogance of America, Young dropped Living with War in 2006, an album that represents a protest record in its best sense. The aging Young, the godfather of grunge, was back in a fit of rage behind his axe, and Old Black certainly got its exercise.

Rather than riding that momentum, Young's Chrome Dreams II (issued after yet another pair of live albums) instead retreats to the other, more troubling late era of his career: the acoustic. Even 2005's disappointing Prairie Wind had "The Painter," which encapsulated the likable if uneven moments of the preceding decades. But Chrome Dreams II - ostensibly Young's attempt at populist country rock - seems tired and over the hill, if not a little vacuous. Anyone who lays an 18+ minute track to tape, such as "Ordinary People," sure as hell better have something to say. But here the transparent and superficial chorus repeats "people" nearly 40 times (38 to be exact) and often follows it up with cheesy keyboard flourishes. With Neil Young's talent and legacy, you'd think, or at least hope, that a friendly ear would come along at some point and ensure that such a tune would not escape the cutting room floor. Unfortunately such is not the case.

Although he obviously had much longer to live back then, the urgency of the gorgeous and enduring country-tinged tracks from his output of the 1970s seems very far away in Young's latest effort. "Beautiful Bluebird," the album's misguided leadoff track, lacks any sort of punch whatsoever. The vocals, guitar, and harmonica seem lazy and even the lyrics circle back to the clichéd and disappointing title. Even in Young's disappointing acoustic work of the 2000s, the legend usually paid close attention to his lyrics. Chrome Dreams II seems far removed from not only the gorgeous melodies, but from the thoughtful and poetic lyrics of yesteryear.

Though he's still a personal hero of everyone from myself to Pearl Jam to Will Oldham, simply putting Neil Young on a record no longer ensures lyrical beauty. The latter-life comforts of a living legend often yield records lacking urgency and resulting in the lazy, nothing-left-to-prove feel that permeates Chrome Dreams II. It seems that without a cause for which to crusade, Young best serves the music world when leaving Hank Williams' guitar on the stand for a bit and ripping open an electric solo. Of the album's even ten tracks, only "Spirit Road" finds Young with something to say through the distorted riffs, but the choruses still seem tacky. While Chrome Dreams II was clearly modeled after his more "classic" sounding work, it finds Young sounding like little more than a knockoff of his former self.

Reviewed by Jeff McMahon
No biographical information is currently available.

See other reviews by Jeff McMahon



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