Tone Deaf: What Does the Program Director Listen to?

by Jade Watts


The Visitor inspires a 70s era fighting spirit. (Photo: Courtesy of Pitchfork.com

The unrelenting rock legend Neil Young is back again with another slightly unfocused LP. Since the peak of his contemporary works back in the 70s, Young has been charging forward, trying new techniques and styles, and pumping out albums that can be honestly a hit or miss.

Nonetheless, this enraged 72 year old has never been one to stay quiet and stand still when atrocities are in abundance, which is why The Visitor comes to the listener as more of a violent outburst than a coherent composition.

On this album Young partners up for a second time with young promising quartet essentially born from a Neil Young concert, Promise of the Real. Also known as POTR, Promise of the Real formed when country rock legend Willie Nelson’s son, Lukas Nelson, met drummer Anthony LoGerfo, at a Neil Young concert in early 2008. They called Tato Melgar, their percussionist, and Merlyn Kelly, their bassist, dropped out of school, and pursued music as a full time career.

Even though they are no Crazy Horse, Promise of the Real are able to keep the pace and sound that is needed to be achieved, while still meshing older rifts from Young’s works into these new almost sardonic songs. In tunes such as “Almost Always” and the magical ten minute closer “Forever,” POTR uses rifts from Harvest Moon’s “Unknown Legend” and the chilling sounds of “On the Beach” respectively, playing nicely with Neil’s current view of the state of the world.

Fundamentally, this album is about Trump, North Korea, the environment, religion, human rights, politics as a whole, you, me, and, for eight minutes and twenty seconds, the Circus. Seriously. Truthfully though, The Visitor is about Neil Young. This album is a sort of stream of consciousness piece, pulled from the different recesses of Young’s mind on his many opinions about many pressing subjects.

As The Visitor explores different messages, it also experiments with it’s sound. According to Paul Mardles of the Guardian “[it] features Young in gruff, Trump-baiting mode, plus blaxploitation-style funk, one spoken-word outburst and, strangest of all, a gaudy Latin romp,” only naming a few of Young’s artistic freedoms exploited during this set.

This LP is such an extensively musical mixed bag of songs and concepts that shouldn’t work, and wouldn’t if they were done by anyone else but Young. The Visitor, at first glance, seems like another one of Neil Young’s nonsensical ramblings, but with earworms like “Stand Tall” and “Almost Always,” weird flops like “Carnival” and “Change of Heart,”  and complete masterpieces like “Forever,”  it’s clear that there is significance in Young’s delivery.

The question begs then, if  The Visitor is rated a 68 overall, why is it important Neil Young released an album like this?

Neil Young speaks to a generation of people who can directly affect the course of the state of the world. He has released an album almost every year since 1969 and Young’s audience is made up of people who grew up listening to his Canadian tenor voice and respect what his message is and who he is.

Young speaks above the white noise and superficially humdrum of other white male artists who preach equality and freedom because of who he is.

Neil Young always speaks bravely and directly to mentalities and people who create a problem, and to those who can fix it. He never withholds truth from the people and demands that only the truth be spoken. Young is the voice of a generation, and it’s comforting to have him continue to speak up and know he’s still on the right side.

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