Thursday, June 25, 2015

Album Review: Neil Young + Promise of The Real- The Monsanto Years

Neil Young + Promise of The Real
The Monsanto Years
** out of *****
Protest has lead to some of the greatest rock and roll ever. Whether rebelling against injustice, or oppression of any shape or form the angst that spews creative music is vital. Neil Young has built a career on this and he has been pretty haphazard at to what gets his goat from album to album.

This time out it is big business on the album titled The Monsanto Years, which finds Uncle Neil plugging in, fronting Promise of the Real whose normal leaders are Micah and Lucas Nelson, sons of Willie, playing the supporting roll here. The album is consumed with the sense that big business in the form of Monsanto (a multinational agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation ) is strangling farmers and with the help of other corporations, hijacking the rights from every individual in this country. 

The songs spread the blame around, linking Starbucks ("Rock Star Bucks A Coffee Shop") Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas ("Workin' Man") grocery chains like Safeway ("Monsanto Years") and all other big box stores ("Big Box") and even the individuals ("People Want To Hear About Love") into the problem. This isn't a clear thematic progression or rock opera though, it is more like a collection of gripes. That is fine and dandy if those issues fuse into more then melodically backed simplistic rants. In order for an album like this to be supremely successful an artist, especially one the caliber of Young, needs to transform an issue into an artistic statement that can't be denied (to borrow a phrase).

Unfortunately this album never rises to those heights or to much more then average electric roots rock with shoehorned lyrics about the big bad Monsanto. It is as if halfway through the project Young took to heart the lyrics of "People Want To Hear About Love" and decided he just didn't have the fire to burn down the evil corporations in these songs.

As for the backing of Promise of the Real, there is a tentative fit. Perhaps in Crazy Horses hands a track like "Rules of Change" would be exploited for that crucial underlying dark feedback rumble but here the players never full mesh. It is to be expected, and for a reference point one only needs to look at Mirror Ball, to see a great band not fit into Young's loose (possibly even tossed off) recording style.

Unlike Mirror Ball that wooly sense of abandon and energy is sacrificed for a loose half baked theme and probably the simple age of Young, also there is no "I'm The Ocean" (a criminally underrated recording/song/experience) to buoy the whole project. The Monsanto Years ends up being the worst thing a protest piece of art can be; dull.        
Always happy to hear Uncle Neil play electric, but this one felt undercooked in every way.

Support the artist here, buy the album here and peep some video below:  

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