- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 20, 2006

Novelist Walter Kirn, guest-blogging over at AndrewSullivan.com, has an insightful take on Neil Young’s forthcoming protest album:

I’m a fan of Neil Young, and yet I’m not so sure I want to hear this album. Nor would I be eager to jump up and buy a new Dylan album with the same concept. I sense self-imitation in the air. I sense too much satisfaction all around. “You loved it when they took on Johnson, but you’ll be ecstatic when they slam Bush!” It’s not that Young’s not perfectly entitled to a political second act, it’s that his musical protests this time will come with a stamp of cultural approval and a solid-gold provenance that will make them too respectable, I fear. Lashing out against power just isn’t the same when an artist can be assured, up front, that he’ll be loved and applauded for doing so just as he was when he did it before, when it was a risk.

I can’t find much to disagree with there. However, I will say — in defense of Young this time — that “Living with War” isn’t an abrupt about-face for Young. As I mentioned in a post before, social disaffection has been on the margins — and sometimes front and center — of his music for years. This new album, then, isn’t a “second act.” It’s Young continuing his first act, for better or worse.

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