I’m a big big Neil Young fan, but I haven’t been too impressed with Neil Young’s newer material (ie, post 1980). Like all his material, it’s hit and miss; but the hit doesn’t hit nearly enough, and the miss is just as embarrassing as ever. And so it was when I listened to a snippet of his new album and couldn’t get past the first minute. I put this in the miss category, and fear that the only reason why anyone likes this is because of the politics, and not because of the music. Equally, I fear that the whole liberal-love of Dixie Chicks is due to that one comment in London, and more importantly, the conservative backlash against them. And I just don’t like that.
Firstly, I don’t like it because I’m worried that it makes us no better than the dummies who want to ban the Chicks, due to their anti-Bush message. Or who insist on eating “Freedom Fries” just because the French government didn’t support our invasion of Iraq (for the record, Mrs. Biobrain recently took a trip to San Angelo, TX and saw Freedom Fries on the menu of a local eating establishment; though in their defense, the menu was a few years old and it’s possible they’ve just been too lazy to change it). And I hate that because it’s sooooo immature. Buying or avoiding something because you don’t like something associated with it is just stupid. I understand buying liberal books from a liberal writer in order to support liberal causes. And I never did jokingly buy the O’Reilly Factor for Kids for my brother, because I couldn’t find a used one at Half Price Books and would be damned if I bought him a new one that sent money to that asshole. But music? Whatever.
And that’s my other thing: I take music very seriously. I’m a big music guy. I love good music. And that’s why I don’t think we should be buying music for non-musical reasons. I didn’t like the Dixie Chicks before 9/11, and I sure won’t buy one of their albums afterwards; no matter how often they diss the president. Hell, they could poop on his head and make Cheney lick it off, and I still wouldn’t buy their albums. I just don’t like that kind of music. I like real country music, like Hank Williams and Patsy Cline and Bill Monroe, and that watered-down pop crap just doesn’t cut-it.
And I like music so much that I always treat lyrics as an add-on. It’s nice if they’re good, but they’re certainly not essential to the song. I’d rather not even understand the lyrics if they’re bad, but am willing to put-up with bad lyrics, as long as the music’s good. And so I don’t even care what the message might be. If you’ve got a message, write a damn blogpost. But if it’s music, I only care about the music. And if you’ve heard any of my songs (yes, I’m a sorta musician) you’d understand that. My lyrics are only there to act as an assist on the music, and that’s how it should be. I often will reuse the same lyrics on different songs, because I really don’t care much about them. I even like my lyrics, but again, only in how they improve the music, and not as a feature of their own.
Even more so, I think that pointed, message-filled lyrics that aren’t absolutely brilliant really detract from a song. I don’t like them and think they get in the way, so that you’re focusing on the words, rather than the music. And they often are used to mask inferior songs. As I’ve mentioned before, that’s one of the things that I think ruined John Lennon’s solo material. Instead of writing lyrics, he was putting essays to music, and I hated that. John was definitely my favorite Beatle, but I prefer Paul’s solo material over John’s, just because the focus was still on the music (though I prefer almost every Beatles song over any of their solo material). I’ll gladly take a lightweight love song about a girl over an “important” song about discrimination against that girl. If your message requires a musical background, then you probably haven’t written it well enough.
And so this all gets us back to Neil Young’s album. I really didn’t listen to it much. Probably not even a full minute. I got to the chorus and was disappointed by how bland the whole thing was, and how it sounded like so much of the rest of his post-1980 material; with Harvest Moon being one of the few exceptions.
But maybe I’m wrong. I don’t want to listen to any more of it, because I like Neil Young so much that I refuse to taint my memory by listening to his lesser material; but maybe I’m wrong. So tell me, if I listen to more of that album, will I like it more? Is it going to rock my socks off like Cowgirl in the Sand or Cinnamon Girl or almost the entire Decade box set? Or will I be disappointed? I’ll give it a chance if you guys insist that it really is good, ie, better than what I heard of the first song. But otherwise, I’ll stand by my opinion that it’s just more of the same; and only appreciated because of the message, rather than the brilliance of the music.
I’d rather not think that liberals are equal to conservatives in allowing their ideologies to determine if a song is a good or bad; but that certainly seems to be the case. Perhaps “equal” isn’t the right word, but I don’t like that kind of thing at all. It’s one thing to support a liberal book because of its liberal slant, but I think that entertainment, and in particular music, should be off-limits to that kind of influence. I don’t hate a song for having a message, but I certainly don’t think it should get folks to listen to something they wouldn’t have liked anyway. I’m not saying that music should be apolitical, but I wouldn’t really mind if it was. Tell me I’m wrong. Tell me to give it another chance. But if you do, and I do, and I don’t like it anyway, I’ll never listen to you again.