Metric "Fantasies"; Neil Young "Fork in the Road"

April 7, 2009


Neil Young, "Fork in the Road"

Neil Young's ability to get all fired up about current events and quickly churn out a musical statement in protest or homage has always been one of his charms, but it's resulted in as much great art ("Ohio," "Rockin' in the Free World") as awful dreck ("This Note's for You," "Let's Roll") during his prolific, long-may-he-run career. And by no means is this new concept disc about the urgent need for eco-friendly cars among his better moments.

"The awesome power of electricity/Stored for you in a giant battery," Young sings in "Fuel Line," and that's just the first of 100 cringe-worthy lyrics among these 10 tunes. ("You can drive my car, feel how it rolls/Feel a new energy as it quietly rolls," he croons in "Just Singing a Song"; "Where did all the money go/Where did all the cash flow?" he asks in "Cough Up the Bucks," etc., etc., though you do have to admire the line "There's a bailout coming but it's not for me/It's for all those creeps watching tickers on TV" in the title track.) But the lyrics aren't even the biggest problem here.

Recorded last year in between tour dates with his last live band (including pedal steel player Ben Keith, bassist Rick Rosas and his wife Pegi Young on backing vocals), the 63-year-old artist, technology geek and avid car buff resorts to chop-shop mixing and matching of overly familiar elements of the classic Neil Young sound--a little Crazy Horse grunge and stomp here, a bit of "Harvest" folkie harmony there--to leave us with the impression that we've heard all of this before, but done much, much better.



Metic, "Fantasies"

It's been four years since "Live It Out," the second album by Toronto-based indie-popsters Metric, and during the long wait, the band's leaders, vocalist Emily Haines and guitarist James Shaw, have become much better known as members of the cult-favorite Canadian supergroup Broken Social Scene (from whence also came Leslie Feist). But "Fantasies" is a very welcome reminder of their original group's charms, with a buzzing electro-pop energy, an undeniably sassy sex appeal and a sleek, retro/futuristic New Wave vibe that conjures a winning merger of Garbage and Ladytron.

The band's message is never particularly deep: "Did I ask you for attention/When affection is what I need?" Haines asks in "Twilight Galaxy." (It's less embarrassing when she sticks to referencing pop culture, as she does in "Gimme Sympathy," pondering the immortal question: "Who'd you rather be: The Beatles or the Rolling Stones?") But in the end, it's all about the delightful sugar fix of those bountiful hooks, and Metric delivers more sweet treats than an extra-large Easter basket.