Tuesday, December 14, 2010

350. Rust Never Sleeps. Providing suicide note inspiration since 1994

Album: Rust Never Sleeps
Artist: Neil Young
Year: 1979
Genre: Rock


  1. My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)
  2. Thrasher
  3. Ride My Llama
  4. Pocahontas
  5. Sail Away
  6. Powderfinger
  7. Welfare Mothers
  8. Sedan Delivery
  9. Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)

You have to love Neil Young. Back in the sixties he made a conscious decision to follow nobody's rules and regulations and to be a star in his own terms. He would continue to write lyrics about the subjects that meant something to him and put them to music that paid no attention to popular convention at the time. He would refuse to sell his music to advertisers and make no effort to conform. It's now 2010 and he's still doing exactly that. Granted he's had some misfires on the way but he's also produced some outstanding music, both on stage and in the studio.

Rust Never Sleeps is proves Neil's talent and appropriately enough it comes to us from both the stage and the studio. It's sort of a live album but then sort of not one as well. Neil set out on tour with Crazy Horse, a band he enjoyed playing with who exist without him but not successfully (anyone ever been to a Youngless Crazy Horse gig? No I didn't think so). Some of the shows were recorded and then Neil took the new songs the band had played and "tinkered" with the recordings. "Tinkered" in the sense that the US military has "tinkered" with Iraq and Afghanistan. He removed most of the audience noise and then proceeded to add overdubs wherever he thought they'd work. The final effect is essentially a studio album in which the basic tracks happened to be recorded onstage. It's a strange way to make an album but it's actually a huge success (unlike Iraq and Afghanistan).

Like the concerts themselves the album is divided into two halves. The first side is entirely acoustic and showcases the gentler side of Neil. Play this to most of your mothers and they'd quite enjoy it. Some find Young's voice a bit hard to deal with but the does write a lovely tune. Hey Hey My My is probably the best known song from this set and it opens the album as an acoustic ballad. The line "It's better to burn out than to fade away" was fairly haunting when it was recorded but since it was made famous in Kurt Cobain's suicide note it's taken on an extra resonance. The remaining four songs on side one aren't quite as good but they're still great examples of Neil's ability to craft lyrics and melody together into a beautiful song.

The second side features the electric stylings of Crazy Horse and is the sort of music that your mother warned you about. Neil is often called The Godfather of Grunge and the four tracks that close this album will tell you why. The elements of punk and metal with guitar soloing that Pearl Jam and others popularized are all here in Powderfinger, Welfare Mothers and Sedan Delivery. Surprisingly for some the album closes with the same song it opened with. Young bookends the album with an acoustic and an electric rendition of Hey Hey My My and proves that it works as a gentle ballad and a grungier rock number.

For the next ten years Neil's experimental side got the better of him and his music suffered. If you started listening to music in the 80's you'd wonder what all the fuss about this Neil Young character was. You certainly wouldn't pick him as a great songwriter, lyricist, singer and guitarist. But return to 1979 and this album proved that he was all four. And thankfully he would be again.

Highlight: Hey hey My My (into the black)
Lowlight: Welfare Mothers

Influenced by: Live audience feedback.
Influenced: Grunge.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: I can tolerate stoner Neil Young sometimes drifting off at the microphone, as he does on many of the sleepy songs on this half-baked record. What I can't tolerate, however, is him ripping off the line that Def Leppard made famous: "It's better to burn out than fade away." That's just not cool, and it shows this hippie really isn't all that original, when one gets right down to it.

Nonetheless, his acoustic song dedicated to the Ramone's deceased Johnny Rotten at the start of the album is rather poignant, and the song does deserve its "classic-rock" status, despite the fact that Leppard did the lines better on the song "Photograph" from 1992.

-This person clearly knows that Neil predates Def Leppard and this is what we on the internet call "trolling"

So is Neil's music young and fresh or old and rusty? Let me know below.

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