So Neil Young & Crazy Horse don’t release a new recording in nine years; then in 2012, they release two. Psychedelic Pill follows hard on the heels of this summer’s Americana LP, almost as if Young has suddenly been awakened from a decade-long creative hibernation.
When an artist releases two albums so close together, it often indicates that one is a companion to the other—as in the case of Andrew Bird, who just this week released his second album of the year as well. But make no mistake: Neil Young’s new record plays nothing like its predecessor. Americana was a collection of covers, while Pill stands on its own as an original studio work. If anything, Americana was but a warm-up for the real deal.
That being said, acknowledging Neil Young’s icon status and all—Psychedelic Pill is an acquired taste. Specifically, you must acquire a taste for the drifting, rambling jam sessions of 1960’s hippie/country-rock in order to enjoy this record. Three of the album’s nine songs comprise over an hour of the album’s 90-plus minute run time—interestingly, the longest studio album Young has ever released. In fact, the first 27 minutes of music are contained in the opening track, “Driftin’ Back,” an appropriate title given most of the song consists of two chords “driftin’ back” and forth while Young solos over them. Don’t get me wrong—it’s great rock music—but this is a long track even for Neil Young, and it is likely to be too much for the attention spans of this ADD generation. Slightly less redundant is “Walk Like A Giant;” clocking in at just over 16 minutes, this track at least offers some forward movement and a diversity of sound to keep it interesting.
The remaining tracks on the album are not nearly as grandiose, but a few have their strong points, nonetheless. Fans of Neil Young’s live shows will recognize “Twisted Road,” a song he’s been playing on the road for several years. The title track, “Psychedelic Pill,” appears twice as two different mixes, and you can choose which one you like the best. And while Young’s music is forever associated with American rock & roll, he tips his hat to his Canadian roots with “Born In Ontario.”
When someone has had a musical career as long and as influential as Neil Young has, you stop thinking of his music in terms of what he does “right” or “wrong.” Neil Young simply does what he does, and he does it well; the question is in how the public receives it. In the case of Psychedelic Pill, long-time fans of Neil Young & Crazy Horse will love it, but due to its dated approach, it is not likely to win over too many new fans.