Neil Young – Peace Trail – Album Review by Killian Laher
After 37+ albums and at the age of 71 you have to wonder, where does Neil Young get his motivation? If anything, his work rate has increased in recent years, banging out album after album with little time in between. The first thing you can say about Peace Trail is it’s a little light on production, sounding a little rough and not too far removed from a demo. Although the album is mostly acoustic, it opens with the electric title track, which would be one of the strongest things here with a strong melody and some good guitar work, but for the random use of Auto Tune thrown in for no apparent reason. It’s a testament to the strength of the song that it overcomes this studio gimmickry, and it works well.
At this stage we’ve probably heard most of the acoustic guitar chord progressions Young has in his armoury, but it’s still good to hear them on the early tracks like Can’t Stop Working, Indian Givers and Show Me, though Jim Keltner’s drumming is a little on the ‘impressionistic’ side, i.e. it doesn’t necessarily follow the beat. Although lyrically, there’s not a lot to get excited about here (“do you see people’s lives being lost on the sacred land”) musically these initial tracks are well up to scratch, with Show Me in particular standing up with some of his late seventies’ work.
The album dips after this with the annoying guitar pattern of Texas Rangers of which the less said the better, while Young’s harmonica playing is distorted out of all recognition on the paranoia-laden Terrorist Suicide Hang Gliders. Elsewhere, John Oaks is like a ‘farmer John’ version of Young’s classic Wrecking Ball, and the electric Glass Accident is reminiscent of Sail Away, if Young had recorded it on 2010’s Le Noise. But Young doesn’t really do consistency, so we also get the ruined-by-Auto-Tune My Pledge and the odd as hell closing track My New Robot, which seems to be a brief dissertation on modern life, the internet etc (yawn) before descending into a succession of computer-generated voices.
The whole album feels very ‘off the cuff’ which I assume was the intention. While it’s oddly intriguing as an album with plenty of melody to get your teeth into, the whole thing is just a little… strange.
1. Peace Trail
2. Can’t Stop Workin’
3. Indian Givers
4. Show Me
5. Texas Rangers
6. Terrorist Suicide Hang Gliders
7. John Oaks
8. My Pledge
9. Glass Accident
10. My New Robot