The reuniting of Crazy Horse after a time is always cause for excitement. In this case, they released this strange album, which seems like it should be an EP but is almost an hour long. It’s basically the band jamming on traditional Americana songs (for the most part). And it is totally a jam–you can hear them talking about what they just played after a number of tracks. Critics have complained that Young hasn’t really been writing any thing new in the last few years, and this would bear that out to a certain extent. But here’s the thing–the music is really good (for the most part), but the lyrics–the traditional lyrics–are sometimes really off-putting, almost feeling like a joke.
The one real standout is Clementine which the band totally disassembles and make into a sloppy rocker that bears almost no resemblance to the original. Young even plays around with lyrics, making it a much different story–with a dark, twisted ending. There’s something a little fun about “Oh Susannah” ( I like the b-a-n-j-o part) although it sounds a little half baked. “Travel On” also feels less successful. I think the problem with these songs is that the fast pace doesn’t allow for the band to stretch out much–Crazy Horse works best with slow big open (sloppy) chords rather than these martial type beats.
“Tom Dula” (which is “Tom Dooley”) is almost 9 minutes long. This song feel like a murder ballad-a slow meandering song that rather works. The same is true for “Gallows Pole” which has the same feel. For me the least successful is “Get a Job,” a song I dislike at the best of times, but this is just a goofy cover.
“Jesus’ Chariot” successfully straddles the line of changing the original (“She’ll be Comin’ Round the Mountain”) with a cool minor key workout and noisy solo. The singing is so different from the original that it doesn’t really sound like the traditional song. They give “This Land is Your Land” a kind of country feel. It works pretty well. As does “Wayfarin’ Stranger” which is a very low key affair. The album ends strangely with “God Save the Queen” which he slides into “My Country Tis of Thee.”
So this album is kind of a mess. It probably would have made a great EP. But it also works as a fun document of what the guys were up to before they released their “proper” album Psychedelic Pill a little later in the year. It’s not essential by any means, but it’s an interesting item. Interestingly, the liner notes explain the lyrical changes are actually the original lyrics–lyrics that have been lost or removed over the years. I rather like that.
[READ: January 5, 2013] “Seal”
Kuitenbrouwer also had a story in the January/February Walrus last year. Hmm. But Kuitenbrouwer writes about such diverse subjects that, aside from a certain harshness in her characters, it wouldn’t be obvious that it was the same author.
I love that in this story the narrator distances himself from the story before even beginning it: “I never had another story but this one, and even it is not mine.”
And what we get is the story of a fishmonger. He and his wife live above the fish store. The narrator, a young boy named Ivan, lives above them on the third floor. He is strangely obsessive about the fishmonger and his wife. He plays fishmonger every day with his parents. And he pays a girl to go in and ask the man a question (do you like fish?). The answer is yes and that he eats it for every meal.
The fishmonger, Kieran, is also the fisherman, walking out the back of his shop and into the sea to fish–he even gets special orders right from the sea if he doesn’t have any in the shop. Kieran is a loud but jolly man. He knows that Ivan paid the girl to ask the question and he teases him about it. He tells Ivan it’s cheaper to just ask him directly.
Then one day as Ivan is walking up to his apartment he hears crying from the fishmonger’s apartment He believes it is their new baby but it turns out to be the fishmonger’s wife, Margaret, who is crying . She says she misses her home. Later that night, Ivan hears Kieran say “Why can’t you just be happy?”
The next time that Ivan talks to Margaret, she says that Kieran is a good man but is refusing to return something very precious to her. She begs for his help. And Ivan, ever dutiful, pledges to retrieve it for her.
I really enjoyed this story. There was an air of the fantastic all through it, and the payoff was very cool. You can read it here.