New Again: Neil Young

Published June 23, 2015

A long way from where he first started playing guitar at age 15 in Canada, the now-legendary musician Neil Young will release his 36th studio album next Monday, June 29. Titled The Monsato Years (and indcluding a song titled “A Rock Star Bucks a Coffee Shop!”), the album was recorded with help from Promise of the Real, with whom he will also embark on a tour in July.

Young, who will turn 70 in November, is a former member of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and is synonymous with expressive and profound lyrics, wide-ranging guitar riffs, and of course, the title “Godfather of Grunge.” In 1997, Jim Jarmusch made Year of the Horse, a documentary about Young and the band Crazy Horse, and here, we revisit an old story that paints a picture of how carefree, wild, and immensely talented the musician was nearly 20 years ago. As Young has proven throughout the years, not much has changed. Saloni Gajjar

Never Too YoungBy Hal Espen

Having embarked on the fourth decade of his career, Neil Young is still a scary presence—and it’s not just his lethal wit and that homicidal gleam in his eyes. His will to stay at the top of his game and his willingness to throw caution to the wind make for a rare, almost spooky combination. While Young’s great body of work casts a giant retrospective shadow, he is almost alone among ’60s-era stars in persistently forging ahead, becoming a more radical guitarist, exploring wider song writing terrain, and performing as though his life depended on it. All of these qualities plus Young’s devil may-care embrace of the rock star’s obligation to play the fool, have been powerfully captured in Jim Jarmusch’s new documentary concert film, Year of the Horse.

Previously, Young has attracted the attention of filmmakers as various as Martin Scorsese, Jonathan Demme, and Julian Temple, but Jarmusch is the first director to do justice to the Neil Young experience. (The two first got together when Young did the eerie soundtrack for the director’s 1996 Dead Man.) Like Young, Jarmusch is a combustible mixture of the sardonic and the lyrical. He’s also unafraid of the intimate relationship between pathos, comedy, and beauty—which, in the case of Year of the Horse, comes disguised as time past, stoned buffoonery, and some of the most brilliant improvisational sound-painting ever committed to celluloid. Young and Crazy Horse, the band he has worked with on and off for nearly 30 years, appear young and foolish in vintage interview footage from the ’70s and ’80s, and they lurch around onstage like demented louts in scenes from last year’s tour. But this is Spinal Tap with a difference: When these guys crank it up to 11, something grand and symphonic is mingled with the metallic din; they swing like James Brown slowed down to a dreamy crawl.

This summer Young released a live two-CD set also called Year of the Horse (the recording and the song selection are different from the movie’s). Like his 1996 studio album Broken Arrow, it’s a rough, uneven product that gives the impression of having been slapped together and shipped out in great haste. Such an approach virtually guarantees that some of it is going to be crap. With time at his back, Young, who’s often capable of exquisite artistry and craft, is in a big hurry to keep moving and get everything out. Still, an amazing portion of this stuff is pure gold, confirming the Jurassic rocker’s status as one of the wisest aestheticians alive.

THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY RAN IN THE NOVEMBER 1997 ISSUE OF INTERVIEW.

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