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Peter Murphy, 20 Aug 2003
You could call Greendale Neil Young’s version of The Waltons meets Waco – The Movie by way of Spoon River Anthology, writ for guitar, bass, drums and vocal. A series of ten related narratives involving a drug bust gone wrong, the murder of a cop and the FBI persecution of an eco-activist, its range sweeps from 18th century homespun homilies to 21st century corporate corruption and government paranoia (“Hey Mr Clean, you’re dirty now too”).
He’s already shot the film of course, but there’s also the making of a novel in here, with dialogue so natural it makes one laugh out loud. “Carmichael, you asshole,” sobs the cop’s widow at his graveside. “Remember, hey Mr. Las Vegas/You used to be so cool/We met Wayne Newton down at Pebble Beach/And you acted like a fool.”
Elsewhere, ‘Leave The Driving’ is the other side of the coin flipped on ‘Let’s Roll’ off the dreadful Are You Passionate?, an account of a highway cop shooting that morphs into a sarcastic comment on Bush’s Homelands policy.
But if Young’s lyrical instincts have never been sharper, his melodies are generic enough, and musically Greendale is all over the place – or at least as all over the place as can be when dealing with musicians so adept at making their shortcomings work for them. Don’t be thrown by tunes like ‘Double E’, rusted blues retreads that cough and splutter like an old jalopy on a winter’s morning. Here, the Crazy Horse rhythm section’s attempts to play nimble blues shuffles are like watching septuagenarian kickboxing – excruciating and yet strangely compelling.
Time will doubtlessly put Greendale in context with fascinating curios like On The Beach and Tonight’s The Night. Here, Young has sought to resolve the paradox of espousing 60s values while operating as a Time Warner/Clear Channel product by continuing to be an awkward bugger.