It’s ironic that the moment the masses seemed to be abandoning Neil Young in droves, his music got better. In my eyes, this album is vastly superior to Everybody Knows This is Nowhere
/ After the Gold Rush
and Déjà Vu
. And I don’t say that just to be a weirdo - it’s what I actually think.
The ultra-polished, ultra-careful, and ultra-boring Young of Harvest
has gone in favor of a rawer, sloppier, and more earnest replacement. What’s more, On the Beach
actually has diversity, meaning that it sounds fresh throughout, unlike the previous albums, that all suffered from saminess.
The first four songs are awesome. “Walk On” is a rock number with a catchy melody and rather bouncy instrumentation. Previously, Young rarely let himself sound so sloppy, but that’s exactly how he should sound -after all, he’s the 'Godfather of Grunge' ... he already had an awful voice, so ugly instrumentation was the only missing link. For Young it seems, the more undisciplined he is the better, as long as he’s keeping the well-written melodies, earnest ambitions, and instrumentation ability intact.
Young shifts the mood to balladry for the album's second track, "See the Sky About to Rain", whose instrumentation is very raw and features a distorted electric piano (that gives it good texture), but it has a phenomenally engaging vocal melody.
As good as those two songs are, Young changes gear again for the wonderfully mean and driving “Revolution Blues”, arguably the best song he'd written up to this point (definitely the most hard rocking song he'd released). Thanks to the skillful instrumentation (including a finger-melting electric guitar solo), it’s a complete blast to listen to. Then he changes styles again completely after that, for the refreshing “For the Turnstiles”, which sees him singing along to a simple banjo and noodly guitar accompaniment.
by Reviewer: Don Ignacio
(blogging at Don Ignacio's Album Reviews