I always enjoy it when an artist I like does something completely different and unexpected and I’ve never understood the kind of people who shout “Judas” at the slightest deviation from the path the artist has furrowed. On top of this, I’ve always admired Neil Young for his if-you-can’t-beat-’em-join-’em attitude. When his contemporaries were refusing to ditch the flares and mumbling about it not being ‘real music’, Neil was hanging out with the punks at the 100 Club and referencing Johnny Rotten in his songs. In fact the first time I became aware of Neil Young’s existence was his performance with Pearl Jam at the 1993 MTV Awards when grunge was at its height and Neil was rocking out twice as hard as the young bucks and obviously loving every minute of it.
With this in mind, I was intrigued when this article popped up on my Facebook feed a few weeks ago detailing the saga of Neil’s attempt at Krautrocking electronic music on his 1983 album “Trans” and how it led to Young’s label Geffen ultimately suing him for submitting “uncharacteristic” music. About a week after reading the article, in a stroke of serendipitous fortune and nothing short of a miracle amongst the usual slew of Sven-Bertil Taube, Vikingarna, and the occasional Glenn Medeiros LPs, I found a copy of “Trans” in a Swedish charity shop (although, maybe that in itself says something about the contempt people feel for the album).
After getting back to Japan and giving it a few spins, I’m pleased to confirm that my instincts were right. Sure, some tracks don’t quite hit the mark and the others just about land on their feet, but what I hear is an ambitious attempt to tap into something exciting that was going on in music and, for me at least, he more than succeeds. In fact the only tracks I don’t like so much are the ‘typical’ country twangers that bookend the album – presumably added to keep some record execs happy.
So, over to you. Are you the type to shout “Judas” at the slightest perceived infraction or are you happy to follow wherever they may lead and applaud when your favourite artist goes off script? And more importantly, am I on my own here with this whole “Trans”-is-actually-a-good-record stance?
*If anyone knows how to embed a Spotify playlist of the album, please let me know – I don’t have Spotify.