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FACES: Neil Young

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Artwork by Steven Fiche

FACES is Consequence of Sound’s new quarterly literary magazine. Each volume will focus on an artist whose scope of creativity and cultural impact defies simple categorization. Through a blend of original artwork and a variety of writings, we hope to both shed light upon and celebrate the artists who continually inspire us to put pen to paper.

The music industry—journalists, like us, included—is fond of creating labels and categories. Little, odd-shaped boxes into which we can cram artists, sounds, and emotions in order to better tell you what we think or feel about music—admittedly, not the easiest task. In the essay collection 31 Songs, novelist and critic Nick Hornby comically explains the frustration when words prove an inadequate tool for expressing the more numinous qualities found in music: “As a writer, I don’t normally have much patience for the ineffable – I ought to think that everything’s effing effable, otherwise what’s the point?” So, our solution as an industry is to cheat, just a little. To try and make the ineffable slightly more effing effable.

Consequently, Neil Young is the type of artist who comes along and leaves us looking lazy and foolish. I mean, which box do you tick when describing him? Folkie or “Godfather of Grunge”? Solo artist or band member? American or Canadian? Friend of the planet or friend of the small farmer? Philanthropist or savior of high-quality recorded sound? You can check “all of the above” and eat up your entire column space in the process, or, like us, you can humbly select small slivers of Young’s career that have intrigued you the most.

We ended up finding several more boxes in the process. Henry Hauser’s “& Young” explores Young as an outsider and afterthought while a member of Buffalo Springfield and CSNY. “Neil, Transformer Man”, by Zach Schonfeld, identifies the frustration of a loving father at the core of Young’s most maligned album. Michael Madden’s essay, “Not So Out of the Blue”, takes a look at the varied role politics has played throughout Young’s career.

In the spirit of his Shelf Life column, Ryan Bray’s “A Look in the Mirror Ball” traces the impact of Young’s influence on both the grunge boom and his own musical upbringing. My own essay, “Old Man, Look at Your Life”, muses about what Young’s 21st century work might tell us about aging as an artist. Dan Caffrey’s short play, “A Seed”, loosely based on the lyrics of “After the Gold Rush”, demonstrates how art often begets more art. And all of these pieces are strung together beautifully by the creative artwork of Steven Fiche.

These are the boxes we ticked. There are plenty more out there, which means that Mr. Young will keep us all busy for a long time to come. In the meantime, we happily present a few of the many faces of Neil Young.

–Matt Melis
Senior Editor

Table of Contents:

— “& Young”, an essay by Henry Hauser
— “Neil, Transformer Man”, an essay by Zach Schonfeld
— “Not So Out of the Blue”, an essay by Michael Madden
— “A Look in the Mirror Ball”, an essay by Ryan Bray
— “Old Man, Look at Your Life”, an essay by Matt Melis
— “A Seed”, a short play by Dan Caffrey
— All original artwork by Steven Fiche

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