Neil Young News
Ironically, Sleeps With Angels is an album that
given Cobain some comfort had he lived to hear it. Despite the
crackle of the title song, Sleeps With Angels is as charged
spirit and romantic optimism as it's fraught with war- zone
shell shock and
deathbed fear. Sometimes, Young throws it all into the same
song, as on
"Prime of Life," a striking throwback to the doleful
buzz pop of
his earliest solo work ("The Loner, "I've Been Waiting
You"), that marks the spot where you start running out of time
everything you ever dreamed of.
In the desultory piano crawl of "Driveby," Young considers with a har- rowing chill the random, even casual way that fate sights its victims in the cross hairs - "Well you feel invincible/It's just a part of life/ There's a feud going on, and you don't know." The chorus is brutalizingly direct, the words drive by repeated slowly four times in a kind of numbed singsong.
Yet for every jolt of grim realism like the doomsday freeze frame "Safeway Cart," with its eel-y glissando bass and muted air-raid-siren harmonica, there is also the battle-hardened confidence and healing faith of Train of Love," a firm pledge of fidelity in the old, reassuring Harvest-ballad mode ("To love and honor 'til death do us part/Repeat after me/This train is never going back"). In fact, the entire record rolls back and forth with the rhythm and rigor of a good, impassioned barroom argument. Vocal melodies and Iyric fragments from some songs are freely reprised to poetic effect in others. The two sister The Heart" and "A Dream That Can Last," actually feature the nostalgic plunking of an old saloon-style pianos. "Change Your Mind" and "Blue Eden," two magnum guitar-distortion reveries that add up to more than 20 minutes, comprise a raw, extended soliloquy on the love roller-coaster - "Destroying you/Embracing you/Protecting you/Confining you/Distracting you/Supporting you/Distorting you/Controlling you" - and the "magic touch" that just might help you make to the end of the line.
Sleeps With Angels is not the first album Young has made about the widening cracks in the American dream or what's left of it for the teenage refugees after the broken promises of the '60s and the worthless covenants a the Reagan-Bush era. But it is among his best, a dramatic wrestling of song and conscience that suggests - no, insists - that walking through fire doesn't necessarily mean you have to go up in flames. Coming from some other, sorry-ass member of the '60s or 70s rock aristocracy, that would sound like an empty joke. Here, driven home both by agitated guitar and the transportive ripple of those Wild West pianos, it's not only believable, it's inspiring.
Sleeps With Angels is also rich with the resonance of Young's own long uncompromised life in music. He's rarely strayed too far from his basic schematics of country-tinged folk pop and no-shit fuzz rock. But he steps into the echoes here with the same dignity and drive that he brings to the Nirvana sound in "Sleeps With Angels." The low, throaty menace of his guitar breaks in "Change Your Mind" strongly evokes the meditative crackle of those long dark solos he took back on Everybody Knows This is Nowhere. "Trans Am," a nuclear-landscape campfire story about a mythic set of hot wheels, is an electric "Last Trip to Tulsa" via Mad Max, a long, tall tale garnished with bassy twang and lashes of gulping wah-wah guitar.
And then there's "Piece
of Crap," a raucous
broadside against epidemic materialism and the
curse of QVC ("Saw it
on the tube/Bought it on phone/Now you're home
alone/It's a piece of crap")
that smokes like "This Note's for
You" meets "Opera Star"
at full Weld volume. it's a big,
hilarious blob of rock & roll snot,
and it doesn't seem to belong here
- at first. But I've got 20 bucks that
says by year's, it will be the
encore cover version of choice by discriminating
young punk bands
everywhere, and besides, it says pretty much the same thing
as the rest of
the album: that just because there's a lot of shit in the
mean you have to put up with it. Kurt Cobain, sadly, found
one way to deal
with it. Neil Young, thankfully, is still working on his.
(end of article)
pg. 88, Rolling Stone, August 25, 1994
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