Neil Young and Crazy Horse
Psychedelic Pill (Reprise)
Psychedelic Pill is of epic proportion and a pinnacle for Young. The nostalgia of “Driftin’ Back”—and of all the songs on this close to 90-minute album—is not merely pining for something lost, but raging at it. Picasso gets turned into “wallpaper” and Young maddeningly says that he is going to get “a hip-hop haircut.” Raving against the poor fidelity of MP3s, Young sadly but with a viper’s tongue hisses that inferior sound today is “blockin’ out my anger/Blockin’ out my thoughts.” None of this is easy listening or trivial. All is dispatched within huge mounds of sound that cross the boundaries between linear narratives and, sans easily memorable hooks, tunes that assault the listener’s desire for musical resolution.
The songs on Psychedelic Pill are not coming from the last ’60s rock artist still dreaming, but from one who is fearlessly waking up to a nightmare of modernity and self-revelation. “Seems like lately things are going south,” from “Ramada Inn,” rivals the title track’s “Every move is like a psychedelic pill from a doctor I can’t find.” We have entered an altered state, but from where? How did we get to where we are?
The answers are in controlled feedback and guitars that, like the lyrics, speak in sharply curved images. The listener has to hang on or be thrown to the side. There is no easy way forward and there’s no way back. The present is for rebirth, but we can’t hear its possibility anymore. Again, from “Ramada Inn”: “And every mornin’ comes the sun.” It is about survival.