When historians look back at the 2006 mid-term election and want to figure out what was going through the mind of the American public as they decisively threw the Republican Party out of office, I suggest that they listen to Neil Young’s new album Living with War.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that tens of millions of American voters listened to this album and then went out and voted, but I do think that this album perfectly captures the mood of the country at this point and time. At times the album can be blistering in its criticism of George W. Bush as such songs as Let’s Impeach the President and Shock and Awe leave little to the imagination of what Neil thinks of our President. But don’t dismiss this album as an anti-Bush screed. Young also captures the yearning most Americans have for a leader, any leader, who will work to make this country better, and chides Americans for not demanding more from our leaders or holding them accountable for their actions.
Flags of Freedom is probably one of the most patriotic songs I have ever heard from a rocker. It describes an old time military parade full of new recruits on their way to war (presumably Iraq). Parents and family members watch proudly and with trepidation as their sons and daughters, husbands, and wives, brothers and sisters march off to war. However there is criticism directed to the rest of us who stayed behind, as Young describes a sister who is there to watch her brother off to war but is then distracted by what is playing on a flat screen TV in a shop window. Finally in case you still don’t get what Neil is trying to say on Living with War, he ends the album with a gospel choir version of America the Beautiful.
Apparently this album was put together in a couple of days and it shows in some places. It probably has the most DIY vibe on a major label album since Guided By Voices’ Bee Thousand album. Also if you groove on Neil Young but don’t care about the lyrics, there still are a couple of classic Neil Young with Crazy Horse stompers here. On Neil’s web site there are videos of Neil arranging the songs, which is also quite fascinating.
If you were excited by the election results this album is for you. If you were confused and angry about the outcome, listen to this album to get a better understanding of what many of your fellow Americans are feeling. If you love Neil Young's music, get this album. Finally if you are fascinated in seeing how a Hall of Fame rock and roll star can be both political and patriotic, angry and hopeful, irreverent and relevant, go out and get Living with War.