Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Decades after Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere had been absorbed into the cultural bloodstream, David Crosby complained he still didn’t get what Neil Young saw in Crazy Horse. Yeah, they were “soulful,” but so was his dog, and he didn’t let his dog play drums, either. Of course, these were men working with different creative metrics: Crosby was guided by craft, Young by the search for a more primitive truth. No matter how familiar the music here is, it still has the haunted quality of something whose looseness and imperfection (such as Crosby might call it) only make it feel realer and more alive. Isn’t the title track a little baggy? Yeah. Could “Cowgirl in the Sand” and “Down by the River” be cut in half? Probably. But then you’d lose the murky passages in the middle where the band yawns and the music suddenly comes out—an expressionism that had more in common with jazz and painting than rock ’n’ roll. It wasn’t long before Young insisted on keeping the tape rolling all the time because he realized you could practice as much as you wanted, but you’d never know you got the right take until it disappeared into the mist. In liberating himself from the professionalism of CSNY, Young cut a path not just for himself, but for generations of punk, experimental, and indie bands for whom technical correctness and creative spirit were two different vectors that didn’t always intersect. The road diverges: progressive and arena rock tightening things into science over here, Young mucking around in a barn over there. As he later put it, Crazy Horse weren’t very good. But they were great.