Neil has been a passionate environmentalist and supporter of farmers for decades, which is fine. He has decided to take on the Monsanto mega-corporation and their production of GMOs, and how they are tied to big money politics, other mega-corporations (he also frequently attacks Wal-Mart and Starbucks by name on this record) and how they screw the farmer. All noble causes, but his execution is piss poor. These are some of the worst lyrics I've ever heard. Monsanto has nothing to worry about from Neil, nobody will be able to get through these songs to hear their message and rise up against the corporate Man.
The shame is that, musically speaking, this is pretty good. It sounds like good, not great, Crazy Horse. The band is Promise of the Real, a group led by Lukas Nelson, son of Willie Nelson. They are joined by another Nelson boy, Micah. The band is very good, actually. Gritty in a Crazy Horse way but a little more polished, which is nice. This came together in typical Neil fashion, he had fun jamming with the Nelson boys at a Farm-Aid event, and so invited them to be his band on his next album. They sound great together, but I wish they had better material to work with. As good as the music is (featuring some great guitar fireworks between Neil and Lukas in spots), you just cannot get past these lyrics.
Cringe-worthy throughout. Check out this doozy from "A Rock Star Bucks a Coffee Shop":
"When the people of Vermont voted to label food with GMOs / So they would know what was in it / Monsanto and Starbucks through the Grocery Manufacturers Alliance / Sued the state of Vermont to overturn the peoples' will"
Yeah! Rock and roll! Oh there's more where that came from. The whole f*cking record is like this. Try this Shakespearean turn of phrase from "Workin' Man":
"This life was good and steady / Clean seeds for cash / Next year farmers were ready / Times were changing fast / Supreme Court in session / Made a new law / GMO seeds and patents / Had a fatal flaw / Supreme Court Judge Clarence Thomas / Once worked for Monsanto"...woo!! (cigarette lighters in the air). That's a sure way to get the fans excited, talk about Clarence Thomas.
At least Neil is a little self-aware here. In one of the only moments of wit on this entire album, Neil sarcastically acknowledges that the fans might not want to hear his political tirades in "People Want To Hear About Love," instead they want simple pop love songs. He warbles "Don't talk about Citizens United has killed democtracy / People want to hear about love / Don't say pesticides cause autistic children / People want to hear about love." No Neil. I am fine with being challenged by politically charged music. Just do it well, that is all I ask. Give me more "Ohio," less "A Rock Star Bucks a Coffee Shop."
These lyrics come across as less songs and more like blog posts or angry "get-off-my-lawn" tirades on Facebook. Which is why I hate Facebook. Like I said, this worked very well with Fork in the Road, which was whimsical and rocking while still addressing some serious issues, not so well on the grating Living With War, and it completely fails here. There is also a Yoko Ono element here. Neil left his decades long marriage a year or two ago and ran off with mediocre actress / annoying activist Daryl Hannah. (In fact, Neil is no longer on speaking terms with longtime musical compadre David Crosby because Crosby spoke up publicly and said some very unflattering things about Hannah). This is the second record he's put out since he started his relationship with her, and it is the second seriously sh*tty record he's put out in a row, after a fairly strong hitting streak. Dump the mermaid and get back to making great music again, Neil.
* out of *****