St. Anger

By MATT ASHARE  |  May 2, 2006

Neil Young
Neil Young is back, and he is pissed

Neil Young really is at his best when he’s pissed. The emotional range on his new Living With War (Reprise) is fairly broad, but the disc’s driving force is an anger as powerful as the Crazy Horse rhythm section, as raw as Young’s overdriven guitar, and a sharp as his stinging solos. Not sure if there’s anything on here that has the immediate anthemic power of his Reagan-era protest salvo “Rockin’ In the Free World,” but there are a few that come close. And he stays away from the kind of topical traps that can make a song seem dated before its time. It’s good to have angry Neil back.

Apparently, Eddie Vedder was so mad he couldn’t even come up with a title for the new Pearl Jam album, which finds the band rocking harder and with more purpose than they have in years. Yeah, Pearl Jam remain essentially an update of a classic rock band on this self-titled disc for J Records (labelmates: Carrie Underwood, Jamie Foxx, Barry Manilow), though it isn’t always easy to spot the influences, especially here, where their garage-punk roots eclipse just about everything else. It’s not Vedder’s style to take an issue head-on in song: he’d rather internalize and empathize than point fingers. But as embattled titles like “World Wide Suicide,” “Army Reserve,” and “Marker in the Sand” suggest, he’s just as mad as Young at the current state of affairs. It’s good to have an angry Eddie back too.

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Neil Young, "Living With War" (streaming audio)
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