NEIL YOUNG + PROMISE OF THE REAL
’ m Canadian by the way and I love the USA.” With that opening line, sung in a
familiar shaky voice, Neil Young launches into his latest album. Aided by rock
group Promise Of The Real, The Visitor is a lament for the position his adopted
home currently finds itself in and a message of hope for the future.
That first song, Already Great, lays out the record’s blueprint. “You’re the promise land,
the helping hand/ No wall/ No hate/ No fascist USA/ Whose Street?/ Our street.” It’s clear
that the focus of these rallying cries is the current president of the United States. The
muscular Stand Tall calls for unity in the fight against sexism, racism, homophobia and a
“boy king who don’t believe in science,” and the funky When Bad Gone Good comes with the
refrain “lock ‘em up,” - turning a familiar phrase back on the current administration.
Musically, the presence of Promise Of The Real lends the record some of the robust
energy that Pearl Jam brought to Mirrorball. It’s what propels songs like the
aforementioned Stand Tall, as well as Fly By Night Deal on which they lay down a suitably
spiky bed for their leader’s half-spoken vocal assualt. There are also echoes of classic Young.
Almost Always has that twilight-porch feel of Harvest Moon. Parodixically, its softer ambience
lends added weight to lines about a “game show host who hast to brag and has to boast
about tearing down the things that I hold dear.”
It’s that convergence of sound and subject matter which elevates The Visitor above any of
his recent releases. Where 2014’s A Letter Home and Storytone both felt slight, his ideas have
been channelled in a more determined fashion here. The best example is closing track
Forever, one of those Ambulance Blues-style classics where the extended length gives the song
a chance to slowly reveal itself and seep into your consciousness.
The release of Hitchhiker early this year was a reminder of just how bright Young’s
creativity burnt in the seventies. In many ways, this next album is more impressive still. By
proving that he’s still capable of writing songs that reflect the times, Young and his band
have made one of this year’s most endearing releases.
THE THREAD THAT KEEPS US
With a band so synonymous
with the landscape of Arizona
that it can be heard in every
strum of guitar or blast of
brass, it’s somewhat surprising to learn
that Calexico’s ninth studio album was
created on the Northern California coast.
Joey Burns and John Convertino
haven’t suddenly taken up surf guitar, but
there are hints that these new
surroundings have bled into their sound.
It’s noticeable in the renewed energy that
is evident right from the start, on opener
End Of The World With You.
That feeling continues with the
cinematic western Voices In The Field and
sly fury of Bridge To Nowhere. It’s a subtle
but notable shift in dynamic that is
mirrored by some of the album’s subject
matter, with songs such as Girl In The
Forest and Music Box finding strength in
the beauty of their setting.
If there’s one criticism it’s that the
album is a couple of tracks too long and
doesn’t need additional soundscapes like
Shortboard. But that’s a minor grumble
and to be expected from a band
rejuvenated by this change of scene.
Lemuria like to treat fans
with ‘secret’ releases. In the
past, these have included
album outtakes and a
re-release of their original demo cd-r. But
this year fans are getting a whole new
album, just in time for Christmas.
Since forming in 2004, the band has
stayed underground, perhaps not getting
the mainstream attention that they
deserve. However, this means they
haven’t been pigeonholed, leaving them
free to create the music they want to
make. And Lemuria do just that, with
The three-piece always write original
sounding guitar music. Kicking In has all
the hallmarks of traditional country
music without being overcooked or sickly
sweet. Sliver Of Change and Christine
Perfect are Lemuria-style balls of energy,
with big choruses the band do so well.
Recreational Hate is a thank you to
everyone who has supported the band
since 2004. It has given the group
opportunities they haven’t had before,
like working with one of the best
(^50) PIC: PER OLE HAGEN