I must admit that I'm not the biggest Neil Young fan, or have much knowledge of his history. That doesn't mean I dislike him, just that my ears are pretty fresh to his music. So when I saw that he had a new record out, I thought it would be a good idea to check it out. Turns out it was a lot of fun and very nostalgic for me. The album seems very raw overall. It pretty much sounds like it was recorded in a basement.
Psychedelic Pill starts off with the 27-minute epic, "Driftin Back." Three-quarters of the song is a guitar-driven jam. Here is a perfect example of the nostalgia the album possesses. I could see the wood paneled basement, half-lit cigarettes creating a slight haze, instrument wires everywhere, old PA equipment, cracked cymbals, and someone sitting on the couch in the corner bobbing their head. On "Ramada Inn" (which clocks in at around 16 minutes), it's almost as if you can hear the snares on the snare drum rattle because the bass or guitar hits that special register that sends everything vibrating in the room. Who knows, it could have been the wood-paneled walls vibrating in the imaginary basement. The only odd part was the title track, "Psychedelic Pill," mainly because it had a cheap Garageband-type flanger effect on it the whole time. At least they provided an alternate mix of the song at the end of the album. Lyrically the album is simple. It definitely feels like a man reflecting on the past with a little bit of commentary on modern life. On "Driftin' Back" you hear the modern commentary in lyrics like this:
"Don't want my mp3. I'm driftin' back... When you hear my song now, you only get 5 percent, you used to get it all." and "I used to dig Picasso. Then the big tech giant came along and turned him into wallpaper."
Then you have a song like "Twisted Road" which has very self reflective lyrics.
"First time I heard 'Like A Rolling Stone' / I felt that magic and took it home. / Gave it a twist and made it mine. But nothing was as good as the very first time. / Poetry rolling off his tongue / Like Hank Williams chewing bubble gum. / Asking me 'how does it feel'?"
Overall it was a fun listen. Nothing like hearing a bunch of old guys jam. You can hear and feel the history, and sometimes the arthritis, making the album feel real and almost tangible.
Grade: If Neil Young and Crazy Horse offers you a pill, you take it! I promise you'll enjoy the ride!