Friday, April 28, 2006

Living with War

I'm living with war in my heart
I'm living with war in my heart and my mind
I'm living with war right now

Don't take no tidal wave
Don't take no mass grave
Don't take no smokin' gun
To show how the west was won
But when the curtain falls, I pray for peace
Try to remember peace

There’s nothing ambiguous about Neil Young’s feelings about the war in Iraq, the Bush Administration, and the United States…he hates the first, he deplores the second, and he loves the third but thinks it (that is to say, we) could do better than we’re doing when it comes to decrying the first two.

Living with War (as of this writing, it’s only available for streaming from the major online services) is a nakedly political, scathing firebomb thrown into the mix of the ongoing discussion about the war and its consequences. This is a record designed to incite passions all along the political spectrum.

Musically, this 10-track set…recorded quickly and very recently (the first session was in late March)…is a great rock and roll record. In places it flat out rocks with the grunge-y kick of some of Young’s better electric records (as opposed to the somber mood of records like last year’s Prairie Wind.) The sound is created by a compelling combination of guitar, bass, and drums along with trumpet and a 100-voice choir.

The title song has lovely choral vocals over a solid mid-tempo rocker (featuring some grand fuzzy guitar licks.) “Shock and Awe”, which features both a solid guitar riff and some sterling trumpet solos, feels like an acerbic companion piece to “Rockin’ in the Free World”, Young’s fierce broadside against the first President Bush back in the late 80’s while the compact “Families” hits the ground running and never lets up. The current President Bush is taken to task in the less-than-subtle “Let’s Impeach the President” (which features sound clips of the President talking about war, Saddam Hussein, the Patriot Act, WMDs, and other things Young labels as “lies”):

Let’s impeach the president for lying
And leading our country into war
Abusing all the power that we gave him
And shipping all our money out the door

He’s the man who hired all the criminals
The White House shadows who hide behind closed doors
And bend the facts to fit with their new stories
Of why we have to send our men to war

The President is targeted less directly on “Looking for a Leader”, which talks about looking for someone to “re-unite the red, white, and blue before it turns to stone” (Young wonders if that new leader might be a woman or a black man…name-checking Barack Obama and Colin Powell along the way as possible candidates.)

“Flags of Freedom” is a clever, audacious update of Bob Dylan’s “Chimes of Freedom” (Dylan is name-checked in the lyrics) with an insistent backbeat and a tasty harmonica solo.

The set ends with the choir offering up a gorgeous, wistful, un-ironic version of “America the Beautiful” as its shimmering grace note.

This is a passionate, heartfelt, angry, hopeful, defiant record and that remains true whether you agree with Young’s politics or not.

“Living with War” and “Let’s Impeach the President”
words and music by Neil Young
©2006 Silver Fiddle Music (ASCAP)


Anonymous said...

Great critique of a wonderful album - enjoyed the read. Neil Young is the apex of integrity - a true beacon.

Very Anonymous Mike said...

Amazon says the album is coming out May 9th. Dave Chapelle said something on Inside the Actor's Studio that I liked. Something along the lines of America being the best country by default; that we're really good, but we could be five times better, and we just don't.