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Neil Young's 'Reactor 1 h as
e vasive anti-ne w wa ve tone
By ED LEITCH
When a less talented songwriter
releases a disappointing album, not
much is lost over it. The performer
will be forgiven and the fan, al
though saddened by the experi
ence, will plug along happily
through 'life and not worry much
When Neil Young releases his
weirdest album in more than a
decade's worth of performing, how
ever, things aren't quite as simple.
Even die-hard Neil Young fans
might acknowledge that their per-
sonal needs to reconcile conflict
ing feelings about Reactor. Yet, you
can count on Neil to warp your
mind even with a failure.
It could be, you decide, that Neil
Young is playing a bizarre joke on
his audience. It was getting late in
the studio, perhaps, and he and his
backup band. Crazy Horse, thought
it would be hilarious to record "T
Bone." In "T-Bone," Neil repeats the
lines "Cot mashed potatoes" and
"Ain't got no t-bone" over and over
again, with Crazy Horse churning
away behind him on the same prim
itive guitar line. This lasts for half
of side one pretty funny, huh?
Alternately, you may decide that
one of the basic themes from Neil's
earlier album, Rust Never Sleeps
that, "if s better to burn out, than to
fade away" was apocalyptic for
Young as a performer. Neil decided
to fuzz himself into critical mass
and explode, leaving nothing left
of the. star who wrote "Borrowed
Tune" and other meaningful tunes
except fallout. In other words, Neil
decided to blow-up instead of fade
away on Reactor.
lie Service" off his tongue to a back
drop of relentless pounding. He fi
nally concludes, "Every wave is
new until it breaks." .
The packaging of Reactor is also
designed with New Wave in mind.
,The striking red-on-black color
scheme and the words printed in
individual syllables are reminiscent
of the New Wave genre. Also, ap
pearing on the back cover is the
You may decide from one of the basic themes on Neil's earlier
album, 'Rust Never Sleeps that it's better to burn out than fade
oway. He decided to fuzz into a critical mass and blow up in
stead of fade away on 'Reactor .
Then again, both of those inter
pretations are ridiculous. After all,
this is a Neil Young album. There's
always more than meets the eye.
Reactor is simply the hippie per
spective of New Wave music, and
Neil's fed up with it. Much on Reac
tor, "T-Bone" and the bizarre
"Rapid Transit," for example, are
songs Neil used to demonstrate,
both musically and lyrically, that
much New Wave material is sort of
In "Rapid Transit," Neil rolls the
lines "Rrrrapid Transit and "Pppub-
prayer, "God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot
change, the courage to change the
things I can, and the wisdom to
know the difference." Perhaps this
is a requiem for New Wave as well
as further explanation about what's
going in Neil's creative Reactor.
True to past form, Neil doesn't
limit himself to only the anti-New
Wave theme in Reactor. Possibly to
demonstrate what he perceives as
the noble purpose of rock-n-roll, to
deliver a message, Neil has com
posed the ultimate train song.
"Southern Pacific" deals with a re
tiring employee of that railroad
who sees himself "left to roll, down
the long decline." He has4 nothing
to look forward to, except some
proud memories.The furious guitar
and drum parts capture the power
and soul of the man's train, while
Neil sings the lyrics with innocent
feeling. When you play, "Southern
Pacific," you don't just hear the
train, you feel like you're driving it.
Neil sticks with the modes of
transportation idea in the next
song, "Motor City." Here, he turns
his attention to Detroit:
Another thing that's bugging me
Is this commercial ontv.
Says that Detroit can't
Make good cars any more.
Who's driving my car?
Who's driving may car now?
Once you get it in your head
what Neil is trying to do on Reactor,
it becomes a decent album. Until
then, remember that Neil has made
a career of confusing, provoking
Ed Leitch is a staff writer for The
Daily Tar Heel.
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Spotlight, November 12, 1981