Friday, June 11, 2010

Broken Arrow (with Crazy Horse)

The 90's were. for Neil, a decade dominated by his hard rock, Crazy Horse sound, with relatively few detours. This lead to some of his best heavy music since the 70's (Ragged Glory, Weld), but after a while there were diminishing returns. Broken Arrow is an album that travels to the most extreme reaches of Cray Horse-dom, and suggests that maybe the group works better when Neil and co. reign themselves in (pun!) at least a little bit. When you read this next sentence, keep in mind it was written by a guy who loves it when Neil goes on long, unstructured jams: the jams on this album are way too long and not structured enough.

Half of the songs are 7 1/2 minutes or longer, and none of them justify that length. In some cases, like "Big Time" and the cover song "Baby What You Want Me to Do" it takes a perfectly acceptable song and deflates it by stretching it out to an unpalatable length. In other cases, namely "Slip Away" and "Loose Change" (in which I swear at one point they just play the same chord over and over again for several minutes) they take a mediocre song and make it unbearable.

Which is a shame, because this overshadows the more worthy other half of the album. "Scattered (Let's Think About Livin')" is a strong, moody slow rocker, and "Changing Highways" is a fun bar-rock type jam. The best song is "Music Arcade," a first-rate offbeat ballad which amusingly subverts its pretty, mellow melody (it sounds kind of like it could have been on On the Beach; Broken Arrow's aimlessness sometimes recalls that album's) with some goofy lyrics ("I was walkin' down main street/Not the sidewalk but main street/Dodgin' traffic with flyin' feet/That's how good I felt.")

I think what could have saved this album is if Neil had gone Time Fades Away with it and made it a live album of new material. The extended jams might have been salvageable with some live energy behind them; in the the studio they sound dull and listless.

Rating: C. This grade feels harsh to me, but I feel like I need to crack down and grade Neil on a harder scale than I have been doing. Maybe after this is over, I should go back and revise the grades.

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