The Visitor

Neil Young + Promise Of The Real

When a polarizing figure like Donald Trump becomes president, you can almost guarantee an equally polarizing figure like Neil Young is going to weigh in. He had a go at George W. Bush in 2006 with Living With War, so there was no way Trump was going get a free pass. The Visitor, Young’s 39th studio album and second with Promise Of The Real, certainly doesn’t hold back in greasing the wheels and going after the culprits of America’s current political divide, left or right, right or wrong. For a rich Canadian like Neil Young, you may wonder what he stands to gain marching into the eye of stormy political hurricane. Then again, you have to grasp the notion that artists like Young thrive in chaotic storms like this.

Musically, The Visitor bounces from the rugged and raw (“Already Great,” “Children of Destiny,” “When Bad Got Good”) to the achingly refined (somewhat), (“Stand Tall,” “Carnival”) to the savory sublime (“Almost Always,” “Change of Heart,” “Forever”). You could say this is a Neil Young album that covers more ground than usual, where heavy guitars are embedded alongside the strings and acoustics. That might have a lot to do with Promise Of The Real, featuring Lukas and Michah Nelson along with Corey McCormick, Anthony Logerfo and Tato Melgar. This is a band that offers more sonic breadth and room to roam than the ragged, yet consistently lovable Crazy Horse.

The real meat of the record, however, is in the lyrics. Young challenges Trump’s mantra of making ‘America Great Again’ with “Already Great,” prefacing that “I’m Canadian by the way,” before declaring an undying love for all things America, and bluntly lighting the fuse with “No wall…No ban…No fascist USA.” You could almost say it’s more of an appeal to America than an attack on Trump. However, things get decidedly more pointed on “When Bad Got Good,” when Young chants “No belief in the Liar in Chief…Lock him up…He lies, you lie.” Neil Young knows how to jab when he feels the need.

Fortunately, it’s not all so black and white as the singer barks “the daring young lady…In the greatest show on earth” during the atmospheric “Carnival,” and muses “Earth is like a church without the preacher…The people have to pray for themselves.” Young has always been able to turn a phrase in his own, quirk way — be it profound or poetic. No matter who’s running the show, Young’s heart seems to revolve around the human condition and the planet that keeps us living and breathing. You don’t necessarily have to agree with the side of the fence he’s on, but you can’t deny the man who thought even Richard Nixon has got soul his aim isn’t true and that he still believes in hope, “trying to fit in pieces of dreams”…even he will forever be viewed as an alien, an outsider, a man with no say in what is happening, and always The Visitor.

~ Shawn Perry

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