Now don’t get me wrong—I love Neil Young. I think Zuma is one of the best albums of the twentieth century, and if someone were to take the two/three best Young songs from each of his albums and put them on to a double-disc superalbum, it would be one of the finest records ever created. More than that, though, Neil Young has such a huge body of work, it’s unsurprising that he has produced some excellent, excellent songs throughout his career.
That being said, I think Rust Never Sleeps is one of his and Crazy Horse’s weakest albums. I actually started listening to Young and his band while I was finishing my final exams at university. I promised myself that I would have listened to his whole discography by the time summer was over. Needless to say, his ouevre is so vast, that was an impossibility.
Nonetheless, while this album isn’t his finest work, there are some standout tracks. The first and last tunes (‘My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)’ and ‘Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)’) are two great tracks, not least because of how they pull this whole record together. My favourite, though, is ‘Powderfinger’, a gorgeous song which deals with themes of nationalism, war and, most poignantly for me, being young and simply not knowing what the hell you’re doing. The line ‘And I just turned twenty-two/I was wondering what to do’, after the protagonist of the ballad has realised that his father, his brother and Big John are nowhere around to save them from the nameless intruders, really struck a chord with me. (Pun intended.)
For me, the song isn’t meant to be taken as literally as its lyrics suggest; it is a meditation on being young, on traditional perceptions of masculinity, and on nationalist violence in general. And while the rest of the album doesn’t do it for me, ‘Powderfinger’ is a song I will return to again and again.