Review: Neil Young Channels More Cranky Rage, Ageless Idealism With Promise of the Real
Neil Young’s latest LP with heartland-rock band Promise of the Real opens with “Already Great,” where the guitars cut like rusty plows and anti-Trump invective becomes bitter tribute: “You’re the promise land/The helping hand/No wall. No hate. No fascist U.S.A.” That sense of cranky rage and ageless idealism are all over The Visitor. On the somber folk shuffle “Almost Always,” he complains about “livin’ with a game show host,” while the forcefully hard-grooving “Fly By Night Deal” is sung (partly) in the voice of a pipeline foreman bringing wreckage to the wilderness. Young detours into blues on “Diggin’ a Whole” and absurdist eccentricity on the eight-minute “Carnival,” spinning a surreal circus allegory over a south-of-the-border saunter. Even weirder is “Children of Destiny,” a ragefully didactic sing-along recorded with a 56-piece orchestra that sounds like a grunge anthem lost in the soundtrack to a Disney musical. But the album ends on well-worn ground with the folk prayer “Forever,” the kind of song he’s been writing for decades, stretching into 10 minutes of frayed hope for his fellow man. “Earth is like a church without a preacher/The people have to pray for themselves,” he sings, true to a messy vision of democracy that remains as endearing as ever.