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Published: 2016/12/16
by Larson Sutton

Neil Young
Peace Trail

Any of the young bucks out to make an alternative rock record should first pop in Peace Trail for a tutorial on lo-fi grind and shine that, at once, soothes and peels back the flesh. Young has been hard to shadow throughout his career, darting from rock and roll across landscapes of folk, grunge, experimental electronic, and even ‘50s pop without stopping long enough in any to be typecast. To be sure, there is by now, (this being his 38th album), a definitive Neil Young sound. What’s remarkable is how, from record to record, his songs and songwriting have avoided much repetition in structure or sonic delivery. Never is that more the case than here, with Young twice employing his harmonica as a sort-of train whistle on Hell’s locomotive rolling through the boneyard of life, (“Can’t Stop Workin’,” “Terrorist Suicide Hang Gliders”), or running his acoustic guitar strums through blown-speaker overdriven static. Lyrically, he name-checks Amazon.com and robots, talks the politics of ecology and agriculture, and champions trees, water, and women’s rights. Riding along are Jim Keltner and his percussive patterns that tilt the picture at just the properly obtuse angle, and bassist Paul Bushnell, whose inconspicuous tone and choices match Keltner step for sidewinding step. Odd syncopated vocal melodies on “Texas Rangers” find Young ambitious, even brave for the type of album track for which albums need to continue to be made. From his work with Pearl Jam, or more recently, with Promise of the Real, Young has shown a willingness to partner up with the younger generation he’s influenced. With this hat-toss into the alt-rock ring, Neil Young has assembled not just a brazenly creative set of songs, but a statement to all those young bucks: This is how it’s done.

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