Neil Young and Crazy Horse go together like salt and pepper, like bourbon and coke, like rock and roll. The two just seem to sit right: one grouchy Canadian born songwriter, and a band who could bulldoze the Great Wall of China with their epic sound. ‘World Record’ returns the outfit to home turf, with a focus on ecological themes, and a loose-as-all-hell approach.
‘Produced’ by Rick Rubin, the record feels as though they just hit record and let the tapes roll. ‘Love Earth’ is a mighty opening statement, its graceful acoustic led appeal offset by honky tonk piano and knife-edge slide guitar. ‘Overhead’ ups the tempo to a gentle skip, the playful atmosphere offset by Neil Young’s caucous bar-room vocal.
Neil kicks down on the fuzz pedal for ‘I Walk With You (Earth Ringtone)’ a song that seems intent on burrowing down through the planet’s core. It’s prime Crazy Horse, the kind of primordial rock muck the band (and Neil) have long since excelled at. Oozing out of the speakers, it’s a glorious noise, primal in the best sense.
A record of contrasts, the album then moves into the country-meets-Zydeco lament of ‘This Old Planet (Changing Days)’, led by a purring Neil Young vocal. The volume then surges back to 10 on rough-hewn rocker ‘The World (Is In Trouble Now)’ – loose to the point of falling apart, it’s like a thrilling pensioner-age garage rock feast.
‘Break The Chain’ returns to that Earth-like drone, the electric – in every sense – guitar lines surging out to the horizon. ‘The Long Day Before’ meanwhile, is all glacial shimmers, a piece of folk improv where all bets are off; it’s idyllic and engaging in equal measure.
‘The Wonder Won’t Wait’ is a bluesy stomper displaying Crazy Horse at their most visceral, before the album rides out to finale ‘Chevrolet’. He’s a big fan of the automobile is Neil – 2009’s ‘Fork In The Road’ was a concept album inspired by his Lincoln Continental.
Closing out with ‘This Old Planet’, ‘World Record’ is a thrilling ride through some admittedly familiar pastures. But then, perhaps that simply underlines how potent Neil Young remains, and the increasing resonance of his eco-politics.
Words: Robin Murray