Neil Young - Living With War
As legendary author Kurt Vonnegut proved when he broke his promise never to write another book, sometimes all it takes to get some of a society’s most influential and respected artists producing is an unpopular Republican in the White House. Neil Young, still arguably the greatest songwriter in Canadian history, follows up the deeply personal, country-rock of Prairie Wind with this unabashedly anti-war record, and does so in a way that taps into the general public consciousness without losing class or sight of purpose.
Living With War is anything but subtle, artistically or philosophically, full of songs critiquing not only George W. Bush and Republican philosophy, but also consumerism and other elements of contemporary American culture. Young pulls no punches, especially in ‘Let’s Impeach The President’: “What if Al-Qaeda blew up the levees / Would New Orleans have been safer that way / Sheltered by our government’s protection / Or was someone just not home that day?” But through even the angriest moments, Young still makes it clear that he believes in America, its potential for good, and its founding values; what frustrates him is how far America has deviated from those values. As such, perhaps the record’s most poignant moment is Young’s closing rendition of ‘America The Beautiful’, expressing hope rather than cynicism.
Accompanying Young is a 100-member choir, but otherwise, Young sticks to the basics – guitar, bass, and drums, 4/4 Rockin-In-The-Free-World-era rock, a simple, easily-grasped medium for communicating a message he deeply believes in. While your personal politics will have a lot to say about whether or not you embrace this record, it is Young’s passion, sincerity, and cultural weight that make his commentary valuable, making for one of his most important projects in years.
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