Young is Old

In 2010 Neil Young released his 33rd (!) studio album.  Neil Young was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.  Our mom danced to the recent hit ‘The Needle and the Damage Done’ at her wedding reception.  These facts lead us to one irrefutable conclusion; Neil Young is old.  And like all our vaulted elderly, Young seems to be getting a tad cranky.  On January 23rd music rag NME reported Young’s claim that the sound quality of 21st century music makes him “angry.” In a statement to MTV News he’s quick to claim that it isn’t the music that he takes issue with, but the quality of the sound itself.

Neil Young (PA photos)

Regardless of where you fall on the age-old dispute between LP and MP3, it’s Young’s next comments that caught our eye.  He attributes the change in listening habits of the modern music consumer to the faltering quality of recording and replay technologies. Says Young, “That’s why people listen to music differently today. It’s all about the bottom and the beat driving everything, and that’s because in the resolution of the music, there’s nothing else you can really hear.” 

Surely Young’s got the chicken and egg mixed up.  He seems to suggest that the limitations of digitally reproduced sound are driving changing norms of musical expression.   But base-line driven music has been on the up since the early eighties and the first inchoate mic-checks of hip-hop, well before digital recording got Young’s gruff.  Even if you agree that artists are tacitly tagging their albums ‘Recorded for iPod’, who cares?  The changing ways in which we consume art and communication should drive the ways that artists produce it.  At the least, the two should exist in an on-going dialogue.  Otherwise art is relegated to an ‘other’ space, fully separated from its audience.  If a guitar is strummed in a forest, and no one is around to hear it, should we give a toss? 

To listen to more of the diatribe dripping from Young’s wrinkled chin, click here.


  1. Isn’t Young ultimately saying that the old stuff is more authentic? It’s interesting how constructed notions of authenticity become tied to technology and production – whether it’s low-fi recording, selvedge jeans, or hand-pulled espresso… I believe Walter Benjamin had a few things to say on this. To see a less wrinked chin, and something that’s certainly been produced for 21st c. playback, you could always hop over to the Chromatics’ pleasant cover of Young’s Into the Black:

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