Neil Young – Living With War (2006): Review

Neil Young has always been pretty pissed off it seems. He’s been recording anti government, and anti war songs off and on for the last 35 years and some have hit the mark like 1970’s “Ohio”, some have been time capsules of history, and some have been well intentioned but ultimately half baked protests. Following his performance at this years SXSW he immediately went into the studio, obviously insisting on capturing the pent up frustration before it subsided into an ageing procrastination. The result, “Living With War” is a whole hearted stab at the President (“Lets Impeach The President”), the War in Iraq (“Shock And Awe”, “Living With War”), and a reflection on Vietnam (“Roger And Out”). Using the choir and the usual suspects from last years “Prairie Wind”, the album is a series of melancholic Folk style statements beefed up with power chords and an almost live feel.

As a musical rather than Political event the album misfires badly. The tunes aren’t invigorated, due to a wooly recording effort which highlights Young’s vocal deficiencies, muddies the backing vocals and fails to capture the passion that one would expect from a man seething with a mistrust for the authority of the land. There are a couple of exceptions in the opener “After The Garden” and the closer “America The Beautiful” which brings together the choir for a finale of powerful and epic crescendo. The rest just comes across as slapdash sloganeering perfectly emphasized on “The Restless Consumer” as Young nauseously repeats the phrase “We don’t need no more lies”. It’s a shame really, because there is obviously still a need for the protest album in todays society, but one would have hoped that Neil Young could have given us something more direct and musically confrontational. “Living With War” just feels terribly undercooked.

Sadly, for all its heartfelt intention, “Living With War” sounds spark less, tired and sterile. Powerful gestures, carelessly crafted.

6/10

1 After the Garden 3:23
2 Living With War 5:04
3 The Restless Consumer 5:47
4 Shock and Awe 4:52
5 Families 2:25
6 Flags of Freedom 3:42
7 Let’s Impeach the President 5:10
8 Lookin’ for a Leader 4:03
9 Roger and Out 4:25
10 America the Beautiful 2:56

“After The Garden”

“Living With War”

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