May 25, 2006

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Neil Young, Living With War
Warner/Reprise, 2006

In a strictly musical sense, Neil Young’s neo-hippy anti-war opus often resembles a bad night at the open mike. Ostensibly a poke at the US proletariat’s see-no-evil political ignorance, the title track puts the album’s most blunt weapon, a 100-person chorus, to the poorest use with a refrain that’s sure to have vote-fraudster Ann Coulter making icy remarks about Schick-less trust-fund liberals singing “Kumbaya” while dangling crystals over their heads. Heartland-rocker “The Restless Consumer” finds Young’s trembling falsetto a bad fit for the job of delivering lines like “Don’t need no more lies” (a fingernails-on-blackboard noise that’s survived pop culture’s reaper for years, but you haven’t heard it this bad) and connate preaching to the choir, but the most gigglesome moments come courtesy of the trumpet corps, whose drunken mariachi vibe in “Shock and Awe” is pure Three Amigos. Now aside from all that, “After the Garden” and “Families” are right up there with “Rockin in the Free World” for displays of stompy bravado, which is of course much less the goal here than raising awareness. For all its faults — and there are many — if this record can move just one red-stater to Google up Seymour Hirsch’s exposé on The Decider’s already mobilized plans for attacking Iran and call his or her congressperson, it’s succeeded beyond Young’s wildest dreams. A

— Eric W.Sagaer


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