On the Beach
The final entry in Neil Young’s legendary “doom trilogy,” which includes the masterful Tonight’s the Night and Time Fades Away, On the Beach plays as a soundtrack to the hushed and troubled aftermath of Tonight’s the Night’s noisy catharsis. Having paid due tribute to his departed friends, and having reclaimed his status as a musical outsider, On the Beach finds Young ready to pick up the pieces and move on. The funk-inflected survivor’s anthem “Walk On” sets the tone, viewing the mistakes of the past through a lens that is part hazy nostalgia, part dread and doubt. Young still sounds haunted, but the harrowing “Ambulance Blues” and the paranoid dread of the title track sound like the work of a man who is coming to terms with his demons. On “Revolution Blues,” Young bids farewell to the dissolute Laurel Canyon folk scene in a hail of imaginary bullets, aided by solid backing from members of the Band, while the slyly ironic “Vampire Blues” finds him imagining himself as a vengeful destroyer of worlds. On the Beach is an album of paradoxes; it spins beauty out of desolation and hope out of fear and paranoia. It is among Neil Young’s finest accomplishments.