For the past three days, I’ve had my nose in Neil Young’s 2013 memoir/journal/autobiography. I wish I’d read it when it emerged, but when you read backwards and forwards like I do, you have to leave some stuff on the shelf. On Saturday and Sunday, I repeat-played Neil’s still-classic first-decade sum-up Decade as a soundtrack (no wonder the studio version of “Like a Hurricane” sounds a little stiff and shaky–it’s the goddam run-through!). Today, I created an Apple Music playlist called Decades–First Extension, which picks up some goodies the original comp missed and moves Young’s musical story into the mid-Nineties. It was Memorial Day, and though I created it without the intention, the playlist made me think about it plenty: “Shots,” “Powderfinger,” “Cortez the Killer,” “Captain Kennedy”–those are just a few. Also, the playlist spans several hours, during no second of which was I bored (I was reading, too, of course, but I would have skipped a track). As as he testifies repeatedly in Waging Heavy Peace, Neil’s never needed a push to try new things (musical or otherwise), and though his patented wailing stomp-rock and his strangely otherworldly acoustic meditations will always ring my bell, his experiments from “Broken Arrow” to “Transformer Man” keep my attention as well–maybe it’s his way with the ol’ hummables.
So that’s the listening–what about the book? Should you read it? I’m “reviewing” it five years, several albums, and a third divorce later, but if you’re interested, three things:
1) It takes awhile to shake loose. I was kind of annoyed across the first 100 pages at his rich-guy tendency to talk on and on and on about all his stuff. The dude’s happily acquisitive, and he says straight-out that he loves capitalism, but that shit’s boring as hell to me. Fortunately, though, the book recovers.
2) How does it recover? Through Young’s committed, droll, and reflective treatment of some engaging other themes: loyalty, family, resiliency (the health issues!), technology, hedonism, the creative process, individualism, and–no surprise, but voiced in some surprising ways–primitivism. I must confess to have wanted to skim the sections on Lincvolt (electric cars), PureTone/Pono (audio files), and his film adventures, but one can’t help but admire his enthusiastic inventiveness and restless mind. Plus, he seldom lingers long on those topics (he circles back intermittently) and his self-effacement is redeeming.
3) Structurally, Young goes where he wants, when he wants to. Can you imagine that? How very Neil of him! Not only does he jump with little transition from topic to topic, from theme to theme, from musical phase to musical phase, from life event to life event, he doesn’t arrange those spheres chronologically. But it doesn’t matter. As I’ve said, he keeps chapters brief, and his matter-of-factness helps the reader stay organized. But ignore what I said; the late great David Carr wrote of it that it’s “a journal of self-appraisal,” and that it is. The form and style, I think, are also an expression of Young’s attraction to a unique primitive aesthetic, and it works for me here as a reader as “Cinnamon Girl” works for me as a listener.
Check it out.
Serengeti: Dennehy–The sui generis Chicago rapper’s now-decade-old record really holds up. And it’s not just the halo effect provided by this timeless classic: