Lest anybody had the impression that Neil Young's first 2012 album, "Americana," was some kind of trend of old, concise, catchy folk songs, No. 2 arrives with neither boundaries nor definition.
"Psychedelic Pill" (Reprise) opens with the 27-minute "Driftin' Back," a loose, shuffling, sort-of-bluesy groove set by the veteran rocker's longtime band Crazy Horse. Young solos as the mood strikes him, frequently playing off rhythm man Frank "Poncho" Sampedro, sometimes fast and sometimes slow. Every now and then the music drifts, and Young murmurs such quasi-manifestos as "I used to dig Picasso. Then the big tech giant came along and turned him into wallpaper" and "I want my MP3 -- don't want my MP3."
For all its excess, "Driftin' Back" is weirdly lovable, especially for Young fans who find rickety Crazy Horse melodies and distinctive guitar sounds soothing. The rest of the double CD has the same sonic familiarity -- the title track is a variation on any number of undead Neil Young electric-guitar riffs, from "Cinnamon Girl" to "Welfare Mothers," even if the lyrics aren't as poetically apocalyptic as the singer's best material. ("Every morning comes the sun," from the love song "Ramada Inn," may not be the most profound lyric of Young's career, but it does the job.)
At eight and 16 minutes apiece, "She's Always Dancing" and the whistling, huffing, feedback-y "Walk Like a Giant" seem lifted out of studio jams. "Psychedelic Pill" isn't the "Basement Tapes" -- nobody works hard enough on songwriting for that -- but it has the same easy camaraderie.
NEIL YOUNG & CRAZY HORSE "Psychedelic Pill"
BOTTOM LINE Rock hero's second 2012 album is loose, unfocused and comforting.
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