Extended excursions into Neil Young and 'Change Your Mind'
By NICK TAVARES
STATIC and FEEDBACK Editor
You see the picture, changing everything you've heard…
My love of the longest and wildest passages in the Neil Young and Crazy Horse oeuvre is no secret.
The louder and hairier he gets, the happier I am, particularly when Crazy Horse is plodding behind him. But, following a couple of trying weeks, there are reminders that it’s not just a love of volume and extended song lengths that keep me coming back. Woven within these long tales and even longer instrumental sections is a bubbling emotional quotient that slowly hammers away at the soul, even when the message isn’t immediately clear.
It’s the especially long, droning jams that seem to burrow their way deepest into my psyche, at least. The way the guitars surge and drag so methodically and haphazardly have a way of imitating the repetitive-yet-still-unpredictable patterns of everyday life. The louder and longer they get, the more they seem to mean, and they carry on with often delicate lyrics lying beneath the buzz of the amps.
And so it is with “Change Your Mind,” the centerpiece of 1994’s Sleeps with Angels that sees no trouble in taking nearly 15 minutes to tell its story. On an album that is as dark as anything that Young has crafted in his 50 years of recording, Young sings from a vague and uplifting place, looking for answers within the murk. There are shifts in mood and tenor, while the many hurdles and attacks are thrown out within the lyrics:
Each one is brushed aside with the refrain of “change your mind,” and after every four lines or so, the band careens off yet again around the bend, wailing off on another guitar-driven tangent that serves as a sort of healing journey. The way Young bends and gnarls notes while Crazy Horse slowly stomps behind and alongside him is hypnotizing, and its in those wordless passages that the song’s meaning begins to take hold within the listeners’ ears. It shifts and moves depending on the person or the day or the moment, and no two performances of the song were likely the same.
And in that way, it’s a song that follows a message as much as it delivers one. The constant, unpredictable changes in pattern and style become at once unfamiliar and anticipated. Keep listening, and each section of the song takes on its own character and begins to fit in with the competing messages and directions sung between solos.
It’s a song for those challenging periods in life. It doesn’t preach or beg, it just offers comfort over 15 minute clips with guitars rolling and building to a swell before ebbing back, only to repeat again as the music flows on and as the song inevitably repeats, because that’s what happens when a song takes hold.
Is it helpful? It’s a song, and on their own, songs don’t create tangible change. Instead, they go for something deeper, a healing disposition that can’t be quantified in any way that could be charted or explained. But they’re out there. This one takes its time, delivering clouded messages interspersed between long jams, and it only makes sense when it all works together.
March 2, 2016
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