2006 (Reprise Records)
“Living With War”, released in 2006, is the 27th studio album by Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young. His music is generally of the folk and country genre, but even a portion of rock is always to be heard. His music is often melancholic and subtle in nature with always something infectious. On “Living With War” it is rather differently. It is a biting protest album that, in terms of style, can be called metal folk.
Neil Young uses a distorted guitar sound, simple chord sequences and little finesses and there are hardly any solo’s to hear on the album. Still, I think it’s a great piece of work. Lyrically this album is an indictment of the American president of that time, the conservative republican George W. Bush. Special focus lies on his foreign affairs policy in regard to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. His mendacious, hypocritical political engagements provoked Neil Young so much that through this album he presents himself as a mouthpiece for the many opponents of Bush.
Then brilliance strucks Young. He has his vocals supported by a hundred-member choir that represents the voice of the people. The effect is great, especially in combination with the drive of the power trio. Neil Young is accompanied by a strong rhythm section, drummer Chad Cromwell in particular shines with his delicious beat. There is also tasteful decoration in a number of songs of trumpet and harmonica.
After seeing a photo in the newspaper showing a medical flight from Iraq of a number of war victims, Neil Young writes the song Families. This moved him so much that he has to deal with an explosion of creativity. Within nine days, the album is cut and shaved. For 41 minutes we hear ten songs that glow with spontaneity. Um, nine songs were written by Young himself, the closing song America The Beautiful is an anthem from the 19th century that is performed by only the choir.
The album opens rather nice with After The Garden and the subsequent title track Living With War is also well done. Still, the album really starts to splash with The Restless Consumer. We hear the toxic of the album in optima forma. What an intensity. Young’s high, nasal voice sounds fierce, combative and definitely doesn’t have that fragile sound. A similar song is Let’s Impeach The President, which impressively echoes the people’s call to fire Bush. Very poignant is the passage with the sound fragments where Bush’s statements are surrounded by the words flip and flop. Shock and Awe also has a lot of cachet like the other songs with its heroic-sounding trumpet, as well as the Dylan-like Flags Of Freedom and the driven Lookin’ For A Leader.
“Living With War” is a cool album that you have to play very loud. The piece of work appears to be dated. No way. Politicians who are unreliable twists and turns: it’s an everyday thing, unfortunately.
© Dick van der Heijde 2022