sat 13/07/2024

Album: Neil Young with Crazy Horse - World Record | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Neil Young with Crazy Horse - World Record

Album: Neil Young with Crazy Horse - World Record

The singer returns with a collection of certified classics and frustrating misfires

'At times brilliant, at others frustrating, simultaneously ragged, raw, and insufferably twee'

When most of us fall victim to things beyond our control, the impulse is to howl into the abyss, scream to the stars, wave our fist at clouds. Most of us, of course, aren’t Neil Young.

While the raging wildfires that destroyed the singer’s home in 2018 are unlikely to be the sole driving force behind this collection of environmentally-focused songs (he hitched his horse to that wagon decades ago), they certainly seem to have focused his ire and given him a theme to roll with for World Record, his 42nd studio album.

Following the success of 2021's Barn, Young sticks to familiar ground with long-time collaborators Crazy Horse (Billy Talbot, Ralph Molina, Nils Lofgren) for this, their second album within a year. The 10 new songs here are a mixed bag, jack-knifing from loose-limbed, sing-song country, to straight-ahead rockers, but all with a spontaneous “let’s do the show right here” feel.

Barbecued chicken aside, Neil Young is pretty much living proof that everything is best when it retains a raw edge. World Record sounds pleasingly, often thrillingly, unrehearsed and, if you want to capture that atmosphere, co-producer Rick Rubin is an inspired choice – famously all about feel. Pre-song discussions, live-mic count-ins and the sound of musicians following someone else’s lead lend the songs here a wonderful urgency.

This is, unsurprisingly, most evident on the heavier tracks, Young’s trademark overdriven tone heading up the charge. Along with “I Walk With You (Earth Rising)”, the album’s centrepiece “Break the Chain”, and the 15-minute epic “Chevrolet” are all drenched in distortion and, some fairly pedestrian lyrics aside, joyful, messy and worth the price of entry alone.

Which is probably just as well. Because while “Walkin’ on the Road (To the Future)” is possessed of glorious harmonies that sit perfectly with its knowingly naïve sentiment, the mannered old-world country tones that dominate elsewhere (“Love Earth”, “This Old Planet”, “The Long Day Before”) soon start to grate.

And while music can be thrilling when spontaneous and rough… lyrics? Well, not so much. There are times on World Record where Young sounds like he’s just making stuff up on the spot: “On the front page of the internet / You’re never gonna see about / The big thing in the room / That’s happening right now,” he sings on “The Long Day Before”. I mean, fuck me – it’s hardly, "Look at Mother Nature on the run in the 1970s", is it?

At times brilliant, at others frustrating, simultaneously ragged, raw, and insufferably twee, World Record is much like the man himself: a mixture of genuine genius and frustrating misfires.


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