Album review: From Neil Young and Crazy Horse, ‘Psychedelic Pill’

October 29, 2012
Neil Young and Crazy Horse
Psychedelic Pill

Sprawling barely begins to describe “Psychedelic Pill,” Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s first album of new material in almost a decade. Clocking in at just under an hour and a half, the record’s nine tracks include a pair of 16-minute guitar rambles as well as “Driftin’ Back,” a wistful epic that, at 27:37, accounts for nearly a third of the disc’s running time.

The sonics range from small and intimate, a la “Sugar Mountain” and “Pocahontas,” to over-amped and awash in feedback, per “Down by the River” or the proto-grunge half of “Rust Never Sleeps.” With its allusion to “Waging Heavy Peace,” Young’s new memoir, “Driftin’ Back” covers both ends of the spectrum, its folkie intro giving way to cathartic guitar rock interspersed with curmudgeonly commentary about how the ideals of the 1960s were sold out to greed and modernization. The fader-steeped title track echoes the clomping atavism of “Cinnamon Girl,” while “Born in Ontario” conjures up the creaky charms of “Tonight’s the Night,” minus the gloom that occasioned that ’70s touchstone.

In some respects, Young’s new album serves as a primer to the themes and impulses that have defined his work for more than five decades now. “First time I heard ‘Like a Rolling Stone’/I felt that magic . . . and made it mine,” he explains in “Twisted Road.” Young doesn’t expound further, but his evocative assessment is an apt characterization of his aesthetic — an inspired, deeply personal approach to music-making for which “Psychedelic Pill” offers ample, if at times long-winded, testimony.

— Bill Friskics-Warren

Recommended tracks

“Twisted Road,” “Psychedelic Pill”

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