Neil Young, ‘Psychedelic Pill’ – Album Review
Forget ‘Americana,’ the album of folk standards Neil Young released with Crazy Horse earlier in 2012. Please. It’s a tossed-off goof – a record that should have been uncovered by music archeologists 15 years from now, released as a bootleg and devoured by Young’s rabid fan base.
The good news is that 2012’s other album by Young and Crazy Horse, ‘Psychedelic Pill,’ should completely wipe away any lingering memories of ‘Americana’’s nagging children’s choir.
Young doesn’t mess around on ‘Psychedelic Pill,’ immediately jumping into what he and Crazy Horse do best: stretching four-minute songs into tracks seven times that length.
The album’s first cut, ‘Driftin’ Back,’ is a sprawling 27-minute monster that spends its first minute and a half like it’s an acoustic leftover from 2010’s ‘Le Noise.’
But once Crazy Horse stumble in with their usual plugged-in sloppiness, the album rarely lets up. Besides a few topical lines (stuff like “But then a big tech giant came along and turned him into wallpaper”), ‘Psychedelic Pill’ could be from the ‘90s or even ‘70s. It’s not as focused as ‘Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere’ or ‘Ragged Glory,’ but Young’s albums with Crazy Horse rarely are. Its closest antecedent is 1994’s unwieldy but turbocharged ‘Sleeps With Angels.’
At 90 minutes, the double-disc ‘Psychedelic Pill’ could use some trimming. The long jamming set pieces (‘Driftin’ Back,’ and ‘Ramada Inn’ and “Walk Like a Giant,” both 16 minutes) are highlights; so is the woozy title tune. But the two autobiographical songs in the middle of the album – ‘Born in Ontario’ and ‘Twisted Road’ -- are almost as pointless as ‘Americana’ or 2003’s ‘Greendale,’ the last album Young recorded with Crazy Horse before 2012’s double blast.
The best Young/Crazy Horse albums sound like they could slip off track at any second. There are plenty of these moments on ‘Psychedelic Pill,’ especially ‘She’s Always Dancing,’ where the rest of the band might be playing a different song than Young. But that’s the raging glory of these collaborations. You never know if you’re hearing something transcendentally brilliant or a runaway train wreck. Either way, you won’t be able to turn away.