- 10 Dec 21
On Shakey Ground
All Young admirers will be familiar with new album roulette, and I’m not talking about acoustic guitars versus feedback-drenched Crazy Horse electrics either. Pickings have been slim since as far back as Sleeps With Angels. For every half-decent stab like 2000’s Silver & Gold or 2012’s Psychedelic Pill there’s been something as ill-advised as The Visitor. Even his most ardent apostles would have to agree that the best releases of the last couple of decades have been archive trawls like Hitchhiker and the brilliant Way Down In The Rust Bucket.
Crazy Horse – with Nils Lofgren in for the retired Frank ‘Poncho’ Sampedro – are on-board for Barn, so the volume gets turned up, but there’s acoustic tracks too, which might all sound good on paper, but Young’s song writing lets him down. Getting fresh, early takes down on tape is always a good thing, but a bit more time sculpting the songs wouldn’t have hurt anybody.
The gentle harmonica and accordion strum of ‘Song Of The Seasons’ and the scattergun electric hum of ‘Heading West’ constitute a promising start but the will-this-do? wheezing harp and vocal melody of ‘Change Ain’t Never Gonna’ and the distinctly ropey ‘Shape Of You’ sound unfinished. However heartfelt it might be, the conceit behind ‘Canerican’ – I'm a Canadian and an American – is as clumsy as the first-try lyrics and, while it’s always good to hear Young turn up Old Black, the song doesn’t go anywhere.
The climate disaster chronicling ‘Human Race’, about which the best that might be said is that at least it's not as bad as 'Children Of Destiny', delivers a similarly boring result. "They Might Be Lost' - indeed they might - and 'Welcome Back' are slightly better, but they too stumble along, and the latter takes its sweet time about it, aimlessly searching for what used to come easily.
The problem with listening to a second division Neil Young album - and you could say the same thing about most if not all artists with large catalogues behind them - is that it reminds you of far superior records with his name on them, so why not listen to those instead?
To be fair, Young manages to hit the barn door the odd time – the gentle ‘Tumblin’ Thru The Years’ is pleasant enough and you might even give ‘Don’t Forget Love’ the benefit of the doubt - but there’s too much half-arsery here to warrant any lasting affection.