Neil Young, On the Beach
Self-administered therapy and consolation for damaged hearts. That subtle turning point of angered grief when self-destruction becomes obvious and resigned, that first point after which hurt becomes a stab of memory consigned to the past. I read that at this point Neil had given up the rambling anger of tequila (and Time Fades Away
) for the mellow medication of honey slides
. It doesn’t seem like an overt dope album, but there’s a definite mélange of hazy sadness and self-alienation and easy lyric associations. With the peculiar loneliness of songs addressed to one’s own alienation (and reading the signs of alienation all around), and taking swipes at whomever comes to mind without quite going the whole Dylan put-down. ‘I’m deep inside myself but I’ll come out somehow.’
This is also one of those albums which is so clearly an ‘album’ in the pure sense: coherent in mood and expression and driven by a diverse, unified musical poetry. There’s more emotion around the lyrics than in. I love that this (and also the two albums below) clock in at around 45 minutes — not a single song is wasted or overdrawn, and yet each song feels plenty long. Add to the braveness of a naked heart pushing its angered grief upwards and out, cuttings its grain on wax, and coming to an apotheosis at its end. This is greatness.
Also, besides the steel guitar and pared-down, rumbling instrumentation, I think the use of electric piano makes Beach a lot more attractive than the relatively MOR/session band Harvest
. It’s just the right colour to Neil Young’s guitars. I’m always surprised to hear Neil use piano, there’s something unexpectedly appropriate about it for his voice and songs. The one track from Time Fades Away
that I’ve heard is a hauntingly simple piano track whose mood slots right in with Beach
. I want more.