This two-fisted, anti-corporate, anti-GMO protest album strikes with a blunt instrument — lyrically and musically.
Neil Young + Promise of the Real, ‘The Monsanto Years’ (Reprise)
Go get’em, Neil! This two-fisted, anti-corporate, anti-GMO protest album strikes with a blunt instrument — lyrically and musically — but, by God, it gets the job done, and occasionally rises to the anthemic grandeur and wistful intimacy we are accustomed to from Young. One of its charms is that it names names — not just the titular Monsanto (who brought you Roundup and genetically engineered seeds), but Safeway, Wal-Mart, Chevron, Starbucks and the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.
And while all the talk of “greed and plunder” has a wish-it-were-still-the-60s feel, the thunderous wall-of-guitar riffs from the Los Angeles band Promise of the Real (featuring Willie Nelson’s children Lukas and Micah) — absolutely in tune with Young’s deliberate, halting cadences — catapult these earnest plaints squarely into the present.
Beyond mountainous rock, the twangy, sarcastic “People Want to Hear” could be a record executive speaking — “People wanna hear about love/ Don’t say that Citizens United has killed democracy.” — and “Big Box” comes back to a balladic refrain, “Too big to fail, too rich for jail.” The harmonica blues, “Workin’ Man” reaches out with the nervous ramble of Bob Dylan’s “Bringin’ It All Back Home.”
Young the poetic crooner surfaces in the beautiful “Wolf Moon,” a pastoral apology to our planet’s swollen satellite as it peers down on the mess we’ve made. OK, so “Rock Star Bucks” gets it wrong — the Seattle coffee giant didn’t really join the suit against the state of Vermont over GMO labeling — and the album kind of falls apart in the last three (of nine) songs. This is a brave and timely recording.
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