Rhythm & Views

Neil Young

It had to be Neil Young. No one else has the cojones to release a record with a song called "Let's Impeach the President," and actually make it nothing like the cheesy folk songs you hear on Democracy Now! Young can write a protest song that doesn't need to be cloaked in metaphor to give it artistic weight, and Living With War is, from start to finish, proof that our political situation requires the kind of rash activism that inspired Young to record the album in only a few days.

Living With War has its flaws--the drums are tinny, and some of the songs sound awfully familiar--but that's beside the point. Something about the straightforward rock riff lends itself to political fury, or maybe it's that this is what the protest music of the Vietnam era sounded like, and it's jarring to hear a Woodstock-like vibe in 2006 with the words, "Let's impeach the president for lyin'." The songs are hooky, catchy and infused with a disillusionment many people can recognize; it's inoffensively patriotic, and biting in its specificity.

"Let's Impeach the President" is, of course, the best example: "What if al-Qaida blew up the levees? Would New Orleans have been safer that way?" sings Young, and as sound clips of Bush play over the music, Young sings, "Flip! Flop!" Sure, Springsteen is reviving the Civil Rights-movement mantra, and lots of younger bands have been writing politically charged songs, but only Neil Young can pull off blatant political specificity that won't sound dated in 40 years. We needed a theme song, and Neil Young delivered.