Neil Young’s worst


Well I heard old Neil put ‘er down

Neil Young is, frankly, a Canadian legend. A multiple Juno and Grammy Award winner, a member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, two-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (solo and with Buffalo Springfield), and an Officer of the Order of Canada, there aren't many who have been so influential or pushed as many boundaries as Young has through not only his music, but also his charitable work and championing of political causes. While he was pushing boundaries, however, he sometimes fucked up. Granted, Neil Young's worst albums only make him cooler, because at least he had the guts to go out on a limb in the first place. Still, Young has had a knack for doing it royally.


1) Everybody's Rockin' (1983)

A collection of rockabilly tunes, the cover of Everybody's Rockin' features Young in full-on greaser mode, hair in a slick pompadour, in a white suit on a “shocking” pink background. The album itself is pure kitsch with almost no redeemable qualities, though it is something that soccer moms could dance to. One awesome element of the album, however, is that it served as a “get stuffed” to Geffen Records, which demanded a rock 'n' roll album after 1982's Trans was a flop.


2) Trans (1982)

Inspired partly by Kraftwerk and partly by Young's attempts to communicate with his son Ben who has cerebral palsy, Trans utilized a vocoder for much of the album, distorting his voice into something that is often recognizable, mirroring his son's inability to communicate. Despite its pure intentions and interesting process, the album is nearly unlistenable. Trans and Everybody's Rockin' got Young sued by Geffen for producing music that wasn't commercial. Young countersued for breach of contract and David Geffen himself was forced to apologize.

3) This Note's For You (1988)

Young's foray into the blues, This Note's For You continues in the grumpy tradition that inspired Trans and Everybody's Rockin', but this time makes it more explicit. Young takes aim at the commercialism of rock 'n' roll, but the tired blues wankery on the album is bar band-level at best. The most interesting part of the album is the video that accompanied the title track, a high-concept effort that lampoons using music in advertising.

4) Sleeps With Angels (1994)

Young may be the godfather of grunge, but he had a tough time reigning himself in enough to make Sleeps With Angels: it has double the raggedness and none of the pop sensibility that grunge had. The punk anthem “Piece of Crap,” the black sheep of the record, is amateurish and simplistic, somewhat juvenile for someone who was, even in '94, an elder statesman of rock 'n' roll. Plus, this record was better when it was called Tonight's the Night.

5) Living With War (2006)

Young once said about this album, “I was hoping some young person would come along and say this and sing some songs about it, but I didn't see anybody, so I'm doing it myself,” but in the years between the time he wrote some of his greatest anti-government songs and the time he wrote Living With War, Young lost some of his knack for the understated poetry of a song like “Ohio,” and replaced it with the on-the-nose sentiment of “Let's Impeach the President.” The inspiration is noble, but the execution suffers. V

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