Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (with Crazy Horse)

Neil Young's first great album, and perhaps not coincidentally his first album with Crazy Horse as his backup band. First and foremost, Everybody Knows This is Nowhere is an ass-kicking guitar-rock album. Now, Neil is not some sort of technical virtuoso guitar genius, but he's one of my favorite electric guitarists none-the-less. It's like with his voice; he's created a unique, original sound that while not necessarily impressive on a technical level, blows you away on with its expressiveness. (As a side note, his acoustic guitar playing sounds considerably more polished). More simply put, the motherfucker will blow you away with his ferocity. The crazy, blistering squeals and screams he tortures out of his guitar occasionally border on abstraction, with Crazy Horse dutifully chugging away behind him. The 9-minute "Down By the River" may be the apex of their rocking-out, with its epic guitar solos that sound kind of like Neil was trying to jam as many different notes into the song as possible.

So Neil embraces hard rock and finally makes an album that you'd want to shake your ass to. But that's not the only improvement. I realized going back to Everybody Knows This is Nowhere how solid the production is. Unlike the needlessly over-textured sound of Neil Young, this album sounds clean and stripped down. Nothing is getting between the listener and the songs, and it is some great songwriting indeed. You can also clearly isolate each instrument in the mix, which helped me further appreciate the album's emphasis on riffing and exploring.

If I'm giving the impression that this album is some sort of shapeless jam session, that's just not the case. The songwriting is across-the-board excellent, from the nostalgic title track, to the to the playfully downbeat "The Losing End," to the rousing 10 minute finale "Cowgirl in the Sand." And it's not all hard rock, either: "Round and Round (It Won't Be Long)" is one of Neil's most beautiful ballads.

Rating: A-

No comments: