Despite sounding pretty laid back on this intimate, acoustic EP, Neil Young is pretty fucking livid at the moment. Last month the godfather of grunge filed a lawsuit against Donald Trump after the US President again used his music during his re-election campaign without seeking his permission. “This complaint is not intended to disrespect the rights and opinions of American citizens, who are free to support the candidate of their choosing,” wrote Young’s lawyers. “However, Plaintiff in good conscience cannot allow his music to be used as a ‘theme song’ for a divisive, un-American campaign of ignorance and hate.”
Trump has been using Young’s rousing ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’ without Young’s backing since 2015 and earlier this year the artist fired one of many shots at Trump, branding the President “a disgrace to my country” (Young was born in Canada, but is now an American citizen) in an open letter.
This EP, then, seems to be a response to the actions of one man and one man alone. Originally broadcast as a part of Neil Young’s Fireside Session livestream, ‘The Times’ is a collection of Young’s finest protest songs re-recorded for a world that needs them more than ever, and aimed at person who seems intent on destroying it.
Alongside stripped-back, warm and hazy versions of the always powerful ‘Ohio’, ‘Alabama’ and ‘Southern Man’, Young’s new take on 1977’s ‘Campaigner’ hits especially hard. Its strangely tender refrain of “even Richard Nixon had soul” was written about the night the disgraced former President’s wife had a stroke. Now, it come across as a straight-up comparison between Nixon and Trump, casting the latter as far more of a threat than the only President to ever resign from office.
Walking the tightrope between mournful and hopeful, Young’s version of Bob Dylan’s ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’’ seems to suggest there is a way out of the grim future America is facing, while a lyrically updated version of 2006’s call-to-arms ‘Lookin’ For A Leader’ is Young’s starkest denunciation of Trump yet.
Referencing Black Lives Matter, Barack Obama and calling out corruption, Young’s message has never been clearer or more pointed: “Just like his big new fence / This President’s going down,” sings Young, totally calm and perfectly collected. “Scared of his own shadow / Building walls around our house / He’s hiding in his bunker / Something else to lie about.”
Release date: September 18
Release label: Amazon Music HD