Neil Young and Black Dice. Here's what we thought. To buy or not to buy, that is the question this week
3/7 Fork In The Road This year is shaping up to be a busy one for Neil Young. In between headlining festivals in the UK and Spain, the tenacious and indefatigably righteous 63-year-old has somehow managed to put out his 33rd studio album. Recorded while on tour with his five-piece band last year, Fork In The Road is, depending on how you look at it, either the last word in the concept album or the last straw.
It was inspired by his own noble involvement in the Lincvolt Project, which sees the singer unite with biodiesel innovator Johnathan Goodwin to transform classic American gasguzzlers into environmentally friendly hybrids. Pretty much all of the 10 hard-drivin’ tracks pay homage to the wonders of the green car and the sociopolitical luggage it merrily carries. On ‘Fuel Line’, he sings: ‘The world is ready for a whole new game/But some old-timers just wanna stay the same/But they still advertise how clean and green they are.’ On ‘Johnny Magic’, he pays tribute to Johnathan, ‘the motorhead messiah’, and his ‘way with metal’. No prizes for guessing what ‘Hit The Road’ and ‘Off The Road’ are about, then.
The tracks journey into America’s fascinating post-9/11, pre-Obama interior, but musically, Fork In The Road is on cruise control – except on a couple of songs. The title track is a particular stand-out, with Young snarling as if face to face with shamed banker Sir Fred Goodwin himself: ‘There’s a bailout comin’ but its not for me/It’s for all those creeps watchin’ tickers on TV.’ So while Fork In The Road probably won’t go down as a classic, it displays the remarkable generosity of spirit and conviction that has seen Young out of many a creative cul-de-sac, and will undoubtedly see him safely back on the road to redemption next time. Tamara Gausi Available in stores.
5/7 Repo On Repo, Black Dice finally reach their Crazy Horse phase. Combining strands from past conquests – from the futuro-dance pummel of Broken Ear Record’s ‘Smiling Off’ to the psychedelic infusions splattered all over Beaches & Canyons – the New York noise deities have crafted yet another engaging chunk of aural pastiche. So why Crazy Horse? Because Repo is also the band’s attempt at a beefed-up record tackling pop, rock and blues. Black Dice have never been this accessible.
‘Glazin’ is the new mission statement. With snakelike, vaguely Latin-sounding guitars, an unrecognisable looped backdrop, tinny production, percussive stomping and smeared vocals, the track presents something akin to Brian Wilson DJing on another planet. ‘Earnings Plus Interest’ sounds like French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan as a hip-hop producer. ‘La Cucaracha’ pushes the band’s trademark drums and throbbing bass to a new extreme and also features an honest-to-God guitar solo. It’s Black Dice on a roadhouse-blues tip, and the straightforwardness makes it weird as all hell.
Trash, always a key word for Black Dice, ultimately defines Repo. Odd samples are culled from bad movies, brain-rotting TV, boring Internet memes and other media garbage. This makes for singular songs and an incoherent whole – more like a solid hip-hop mixtape than a cohesive LP. Overall, though, it works: they are still difficult, but these veteran performers clearly know their craft by now. Carter Maness Available at www.7digital.com.