Saturday, November 24, 2012

Y'all Got A Problem

John A. Elder's classic painting The Battle of the Crater
Some folks just can’t let it go.  They nag.  Nagging is one of the least productive human behaviors and it is even more irritating when exhibited in an entire cultural style.  That is the case with many of my fellow progressively minded naggers.

Mitt Romney’s performance in the southern states, contextualized with
the historical success of conservatism throughout the South, has been the subject of critique in the inevitable post-election hubris.  Progressives ponder why they preform so badly in the South.

If you read this blog regularly you know I never supported Romney, not even back in 2008.  I voted for Obama then. You also know I share many progressive ideas on issues like human rights, environmental protection, and a liberal supreme court.  Nevertheless, being southern born and bred, I maintain a healthy interest in southern culture in general, in its customs, arts, and literature, and in particular the history of the Southern Confederacy, its honest rebellion against modernity.

I am not a secessionist.  Recent talk of secession, even by someone I respect like Ron Paul, has not changed my opinion.  Secession means war.  That is what history teaches.  I try to learn from history.  Secession, while certainly a continuous thread through much of 19th century America in the northeast and southern states, is pretty much useless as a viable, peaceful political concept.

But, the problem progressives have with the South has little to do with secession.  All 50 states have individually signed up for that.  Politically speaking, secession is Passé. Rather, the problem lies with progressives themselves who, much like their polar opposites - evangelical Christians (many of whom are white southern males), want to force their ideas about the future course of American policy upon those who dissent from such social ideas.

It is the eternal problem of any political perspective attempting to attain as much Power as possible over its opposition.  It is the problem of not seeing that there is nothing inherently wrong with the South.  Instead it is the progressives who have a problem with the South.  Progressivism itself is the issue, not southern conservatism which has existed since before the beginning of this nation.  By any definition this is collective cultural nagging.

The problem is arrogance on all sides, which is natural.  Human cultural behavior is neither inherently progressive nor is it conservative.  It is dynamic and highly competitive and almost completely self-centered. There are many trends and influences in human culture.  The conservative and the progressive political forces have their roots in the singular political thread of this nation - the conflict between the forces of Consolidated Government and the States.

The War Between the States settled two matters.  First, the abolitionists were right, slavery was morally wrong.  Secondly, secession meant bloody war and mass destruction.  We should pay attention to history with all this highfalutin talk of secession.  It is idealistically interesting but has little practical value.  Secession does not solve the burdens of society.  It makes them worse and leads to nothing fundamentally positive.  I am, in the main, a States' Rights man.  But I also believe there are many important reasons why our sovereign States should remain united.

But all that is mere preface.  The actions of that war are still an integral part of who I am as a southern white male.  What I want to make abundantly clear, within the context of the above, is that progressives tend to want to deconstruct the grandiose failure of the Southern Confederacy into a mere cultural exercise in bigotry.  That is unacceptable to me.  There is so much more to why secession took place with the election of Lincoln.  Just as there are a multitude of reasons why all 50 States now have petitions for secession.  Sure the most signatures have come from the old Confederacy, with Texas and Florida leading the way.  But, greater percentages of the population are represented from states like Montana, outside the Old South.


To chain and isolate the demise of Antebellum Southern Culture completely to racism is nothing more than a progressive prejudice.  It dismisses out of hand the nature of southern honor, romanticism, and agrarian livelihood.  It ignores the existential validity that the industrial revolution was seen as a threat to the Southern way of life.  I find its overly simplistic approach to historical fact (by turning history itself into social critique) to be naively reprehensible.  I tolerate its ilk as I do all things but that prejudice strains my southern patience just as it did my Confederate ancestor who fought at Fort Sumter in 1863 and Petersburg in 1864. That such a prejudice has become so widespread as to ban even public representations of the Confederate military is surely the mark of a rigidly restrictive perspective.  How unprogressive.

So, yeah, y'all progressives have a problem.  You ridicule and misapprehend the southern white male in your quaint self-righteousness more than you know.  And that, more than any alleged moral or intellectual defect in white southern culture, pisses off everyone in my culture, it triggers deeply rooted sadness and anger - which now transcends into a diaspora of southern culture all across this nation.  Montana ain't genetically southern, but it sure has the southern cultural spirit where the matter of State Sovereignty is concerned.

So you progressives piss us off down here.  I vote we stay in the union.  I, myself, am in many ways a social progressive in the spirit of Martin Luther King and even George McGovern.  I am equally conservative in fiscal matters and regarding most foreign policy.  I am libertarian where individual rights are concerned.  I consider myself almost unique in my political thought - being a rare liberal, libertarian southerner.  But, I also point out it is not so much the validity of secession that is the question here as it is the underlying currents that secession reflects.  This talk of secession is like a huge poll sampling of a specific demographic throughout the US.  The States seriously question the power and legitimacy of the Federal Authority.  As Ron Paul points out, this is a fundamental part of Americana.  Particularly in southern culture.

While progressives can point to great and meaningful victories in overcoming discrimination, environmental protection, space exploration, general welfare, among other areas of public concern, it is simultaneously evident that the Federal Authority is dramatically shrinking.  The southern penchant for individual responsibility and freedom is strong in areas of deregulation and the enhancement of private communication.


50 years ago you could not own a phone, the Federal Authority controlled it and, by law, forced you to rent your phone. You could not own (physical) gold, the Federal Authority prohibited it.  All air flights were federally controlled, along with all railways and transportation trucks.  The Federal Authority today has a fundamentally more deregulated approach to all our daily lives.  The top tax rate in 1962 was 91 percent.  Conservatives may whine about the re-election of "socialist" Barack Obama but, in truth, they have been holding their own quite well over the past few decades - led in no small part by white southern males.

My point is that many aspects of southern culture such as power shifted to the States from a limited Federal Authority, or a passionate and romantic intimacy toward a peculiar sense of prideful honor, have not only become more deeply rooted in the white geographic south but they have filtered through the vast, entangled transmigration of US peoples to other regions.  This is not a racial thing, though perhaps, as with the War Between the States, race is a factor somewhere.

The true basis of the Southern Confederacy is growing throughout the United States.  As of this post, States have rights to govern marijuana,
to grant gay marriage, to control guns or not control guns, to authorize the teaching of creationism as part of the elementary curriculum, and to restrict late-term abortions.

These are all examples of the rights of the States - a vast and dynamic reflection of Americana.  I may agree or disagree with any of the above but the freedom does not only lie with my free experience, it also and equally lies with those free experiences expressed with which I do not agree.  That is the proper measure of human freedom.

And while some of the above are progressive and some are conservative achievements, in the main the States remain sovereign and unique.  This is the best basis for democracy because it fundamentally protects the rights of the minority opinion, the rights of the white southern minority have always been the basis for their actions even unto the war that began in 1861.  Though the war was lost, today white southern males are far better off in terms of their freedom and wealth than they were 50 years ago; a naïveté if you participant in the myth of postmodern progress.

So, if progressives want to make inroads with southern white males, stop nagging about our "peculiar institution" between the 1600's until 1865.  Start treating us as equals to your political and cultural philosophy.  Because that is what we are.  We are competing with you for the future course of the Federal Authority vs. State Sovereignty debate and, in many respects, we are winning.

Note: I am aware of the apparent contradiction between this piece and my previous praise for George McGovern as a political prophet.  As I see it, both the Consolidated and the State governments have transformed the political landscape in America for the past several decades.  I do not see one as dominating the other, rather I see both as a dynamic flow of competitive ideas that are shaping America in ways neither side fully controls.

Note II:  On Sunday morning I read this piece which provides an interesting perspective on the dynamic of State sovereignty.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Elliott Carter: A Rich Life Beyond 100

Earlier this month contemporary composer Elliott Carter died at the ripe old age of 103.  He was one of America's greatest classical music creators and was globally admired for his avant-garde and atonal musical stylings.  I personally found his music difficult and often inaccessible.  I think you have to be trained in music to really appreciate his genius.

Carter is definitely an acquired taste and not an easy one to settle with.  Many respected classical artists, such as the great conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, did not care for Carter's compositions and did not perform them. That Carter emphasized technique and complexity over spirit and emotion is a common criticism.

Carter was heavily influenced by Igor Stravinsky, Aaron Copland, and Charles Ives, among others.  But he was highly individualistic and ultimately struck out in his own direction that even Copland, while remaining close friends with Carter, found it difficult to support.

I own six CDs of Carter's music in my classical collection.  The compositions range from his Variations for Orchestra composed in 1954-55 all the way to shorter yet wonderful ensemble pieces written in 2004 and 2005.  He continued to compose music almost until his death, completing his last work in August of this year; a variation and companion, as it turns out, of the 2004 piece, Dialogues.

Two of my CDs consist of Carter's renowned five string quartets.  His No. 2 (1959) and No. 3 (1971) both won Pulitzer prizes.  No. 3 is fascinating to me, though a challenge for my untrained ear to appreciate.  The quartet is sharply divided into two Duos.  Each Duo plays differently, one harmonically the other in opposition to each other.  It is a sophisticated collection of sound and a great example of the possibilities of atonal composition.

Carter's string quartets are only matched by those of Bela Bartok as the greatest string quartet sets of the 20th Century.

Both Mosaic (2005) and Dialogues are enjoyable to me.  Carter became a bit more lyrical as he approached the century mark of his life.  Carter's most massive orchestral work was his Symphonia composed between 1993 and 1996.  This presents a spiky orchestra with a lot of complexity and energy.  Not much of it makes sense to me and it is often strange.  Still, it is a piece I enjoy and listen to probably more often than anything else in my modest Carter collection.  The Adagio movement is particularly noteworthy.  Symphonia is also his longest composition at a bit over 45 minutes.  Carter was 83 when he began to compose this music.

The two ensemble pieces are featured on a Naxos CD I own which comes with a bonus DVD.  The visual and audio quality of the DVD is disappointing but it was recorded at the world premiere of these works at the celebration of Carter's 100th birthday.  A bit like Bilbo Baggins to me.  At any rate, there is an accompanying documentary featuring a long public interview Carter gave prior to the performance of his works to this select audience of a couple of hundred no doubt well-connected people.

At 100, Carter was lucid, articulate, energetic, feisty, and detailed. Here's a quote to share: "I think the actual composition is not unlike a play.  Let's say a performance of Hamlet.  The character of Hamlet is acted in maybe 20 different ways and yet it's always Hamlet.  It seems to me the score is a kind of message to the performer about certain aspects of the intention of the composer and the imagination of the composer but in the end the performer himself has to add his imagination to it.  Now, you asked me about freedom.  By God I like them to play my piece pretty clearly, pretty much as they're written, but I do think that even so it's possible to have it interpreted many different ways."


For me, the amazing and truly inspiring aspect of Elliott Carter's life is that his creation of new music accelerated the older he got.  Fully half of his compositions came after he reached the age of 70.  He completed his first and only opera in 1997 at age 87.  His mind remained vibrant and his creativity prolific literally to the end of his long life.  That is a model for all of us.

As I reviewed his obituaries online one thing that struck me is that almost every photograph of him features a big, confident smile.  Carter was a happy, fulfilled individual right to the end.  This is how I want to be after age 75 - still productive, mind still creatively engaged, inspired about the possibilities of the day and, perhaps, expanding upon original ideas and motivations.

Elliott Carter enjoyed a long and satisfying life.  Whether or not you can relate to his complex music, whether you feel his works are devoid of emotion and completely consumed with technique, or whether you find him to be a unique genius of powerful creative output and style, all of us can agree that he lived a life after 70 that was fully productive and aware, distinctive and opinionated, sophisticated and rich.

There is no better goal for any of us in our lives, each in our own way, than finding and living the satisfaction that lies within us for as long as possible.  Joseph Campbell termed this "follow your bliss".  Campbell's own life was a shining example of this, as was Carter's.  Bliss beyond 100 is an admirable goal for any of us and you can find no better guru for that sort of thing than Elliott Carter.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Last Piñata

Yesterday, Jennifer and I spent the afternoon and overnight in Atlanta with some of our Dillo friends.  We met up at the High Museum in the afternoon to see the Fast Forward exhibit, stroll through the Stent Wing of the Museum, and check-out the contemporary art display.

It is always cool to see great works of art in person, especially with friends where you can chat about an individual artist and other works seen in other places or simply swap stories of how this or that piece of art has impacted their life.  It was the same grouping as the Braves game trip in October plus Will.

Diane is a strong modern art lover and it is always fun to stroll through an exhibit and learn her sophisticated perspective.  I was surprised she didn't care for a de Kooning piece on display.  I thought it was pretty interesting.  Of course, all of us enjoyed seeing Umberto Boccioni's 1931 masterpiece bronze sculpture, Unique Forms of Continuity in Space - certainly one of the highlights of the visit.



Unique Forms of Continuity in Space
The Gerhard Richter room featured a different abstract this time.  I was a bit disappointed that Blau was not still on exhibit.  It has returned to whatever private collection it came from.  In its place was Abstract Painting (849-2) from 1997, a larger work but one that I did not find as appealing.  Nevertheless, I remembered to take my camera on this trip, so I took advantage of the fact to snap a couple of dozen shots of sections of this still interesting work.  One thing I appreciate most about Richter's large abstracts is that each is like viewing a dozen or more paintings in one large canvas.

Abstract Painting (849-2) and me.
Detail of Richter's abstract.  There are many paintings within a painting of his large abstracts.

After the museum Brian, who is busy renovating his house with his own hands, joined us over at Mark and Eileen's lazy dog ranch for a slightly delayed celebration of Jennifer's birthday.  As usual the booze, conversation, music, and food was plentiful and eclectic.  I introduced Clint and Mark to part of Neil's latest CD.  They got into it.  Brian makes fun of us.  To him Neil's only done two decent songs his whole life.

The theme for the evening was Mexican.  This included a piñata compliments of Ron, for Jennifer to bust open, which she managed after a bit more effort than she wanted to exert.  She appreciated the gift gesture which was filled with all sorts of candy and many tiny airport bottles of tequila.  After having to struggle just a bit to bust it, Jennifer suddenly ripped it to shreds with a rake handle.  She proclaimed that this would be "my last piñata" as Dillos scurried about in the darkness with flashlights to gather the goodies inside, now exploded everywhere.  Later, we all toasted "the last piñata," most of us doing shots of various liquors and smiling.

The aftermath of a moment of fury.
The late evening meal included all sorts of tortilla fixings including some wonderful pulled pork, beans made from scratch, and some sort of awesome stuffed peppers that were certainly a highlight around the dining  table.  Some terrific coffee with heavy cream accompanied by two really decadent cakes.  On the side was some incredibly light and dry yet sweet and flavorful cinnemon ice cream handmade yesterday morning by Brian.  Second helpings there.  We were all left in a state of satiation.  The meal certainly rivaled any First Feast we've ever held.  Thanks to all the chefs that contributed and special thanks to Brian for the smoothest tequila I have ever enjoyed.

Something's cooking in the kitchen.  Jennifer is on the right.  Pic by me. 
Amazing Mexican stuffed peppers.
Among the gifts for Jennifer was an ornate flying pig (yard art in the spirit of Pink Floyd) compliments of Diane and Brian, a terrific bottle of whiskey compliments of Will, and a great photo of Jennifer in her element taken by Clint at Cumberland Island from earlier this year.

One of the conversational highlights of the evening for me was a hearing of Ron's months of travel and living in all parts of Europe back in the late 1960's.  I did not realize that he spent nine months studying architecture at a school located literally on the grounds at Versailles.  I was able to talk with him about some aspects of this incredible space based on what I could remember of a lecture I had heard last year.  He filled me in on many fascinating details.  What an incredible experience, to be able to study what you love in such a majestic place, a true work of world architectural art.

All in all it was a great trip with great art, great friends, and great food.  What better way to spend any given weekend?


Clint and Mark examine an interesting piece of art that greets you when you enter the contemporary floor of the museum.

Self-portrait No. 3
 
Clint took this amazing shot of a stairwell off to the side of the museum building.  It is an awesome photograph.  The light, the texture, the Caligari-like angles.  I find it beautiful, mesmerizing, and spooky. 
 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Darwin for Congress

I graduated from the University of Georgia in the early 1980's.  I saw the Dawgs football team win their national championship.  I witnessed Hershel Walker's entire career.  I have fond memories of Athens, Georgia and Clarke County.  I enjoyed the place so much that I worked there several years after I graduated, got a lot of computer experience, before I went to India.

The Athens music scene was at its height.  I saw R.E.M. perform, occasionally under the pseudo-name of Hindu Love Gods, at many late-night gatherings.  The B-52s were there, another great group.  As was a band called Pylon and at least a half dozen other good bands that few music lovers ever heard of outside of Athens.

A lot of great stuff has come out of Athens.  Now the city is the origin of a ray of hope for humanity.  Running unopposed in the last election was Georgia Representative Paul Broun, another of these seemingly endless line of Republican Neanderthals that walk around America pretending we live in the Dark Ages.

Broun, a member of the the House Science, Space and Technology Committee believes the earth was created by god in six 24-hour days, it is about 9,000 years old, and speaks of the science behind evolution as "lies straight from the pit of hell."

You can't make this shit up.

But what happened on election day? A miracle!  Against the odds for such a thing, a University of Georgia biologist started a "Darwin for Congress" Facebook page.  That was all it took for word to spread and 4,000 American citizens wrote-in the name Charles Darwin on their ballot, giving Darwin a healthy 25% of the total vote.  So, an unopposed republican cave-dweller who somehow serves on a prominent national science board (again, you just can't make this shit up) won with only 75% of the vote. The event has been reported both nationally and internationally.

So, there's hope.  If 4,000 Americans can unify themselves in absurdist fashion with minimal organization and no money against the contamination of intellectual space any positive political act is possible.  The small, failed protest vote demonstrates how freedom of speech and the right to vote is supposed to work.  More importantly, it reflects a basic discontent with the ridiculous GOP fundamentalist religious perspective that threatens centuries of progress by human reason. Now, next time maybe they can get a living person to run against this nut.


(Just to clarify my position as to why the belief in a "Young Earth," as Broun calls it, is ridiculous let's talk just a tiny bit of science.  Most creationists like to attack Carbon- 14 dating of fossils and the fossil record as being "disproven".  While I think this in itself is shallow, it is unnecessary to refer to the fossil record to understand that the universe is far older than the Christian bible allows.   The speed of light is about 186,000 miles per second.  Astronomers can judge the distance of other galaxies by how much light is red-shifted as it reaches our eyes on Earth.  The closest spiral galaxy to Earth is Andromeda, which is about 2.5 million light-years away.  In other words, if the Earth were as young as creationists believe it to be (and it is a belief, there is no factual evidence to reject the speed of light, it is a fact not an opinion) then we would not be able to see Andromeda at all.  The light from that galaxy would not have had time to reach us.  End of story.)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Psychedelic Pill

Sometime in 2006, just after Neil Young released Living With War, I cranked up his song The Restless Consumer. The whole house was rocking to this most excellent tune. Then, splat! Silence. I had totally blown-out my Sony receiver with the volume so loud. Since then I have replaced it with a Pioneer Amp that can handle the load. You see, when Neil Young is rocking - especially with Crazy Horse - things need to be not just turned up but very, very loud. So it is with Neil and Crazy Horse's second album of 2012, Psychedelic Pill. 

Neil turns 67 this month. In a time when, with few exceptions, musical artists have already wound-down their careers, perhaps putting out their greatest hits or a stray album now and then, Neil is going strong. His latest release is with long-time (since 1969) musical ally Crazy Horse, a double CD set. This is his ninth release of new, original music in the 21st century. He has produced 37 new, mostly studio, albums since he first went solo in 1968.  (This does not count all his albums with other bands such as Buffalo Springfield and CSNY.  Nor does it count almost a dozen albums he has recorded and, for various reasons, never released.  That material is mostly available on bootlegs of live performances.)

Psychedelic Pill follows a "cover album" earlier this year, the publication of his autobiography last month, and numerous other personal projects, particularly involving LincVolt and Pono, both of which I have mentioned before. Neil does not seem to be slowing down as he enters what is traditionally considered old-age. Not far from being 70. If anything, he is producing more music and pursuing his diverse personal interests with more gusto than ever before.

Neil has been a frequent subject throughout this blog. He is my favorite living musical artist and certainly one of the exceptional rockers of the last 50 years. With Psychedelic Pill he has produced his strongest classic rock achievement since Chrome Dreams II (2007) and, more distantly, Ragged Glory (1990). His musical roots with Crazy Horse, affectionately considered "the world's greatest garage band," resonate in almost everything about this remarkably strong double-CD set. This is fresh, authentic classic rock in the Now.

Psychedelic Pill has received mostly positive reviews and, based on sales, it is number one in both the classic rock music category and main rock category and number two in overall pop music on amazon.com 
as of this post. This is with good reason. The album kicks ass in the traditional Neil Young Old Black mode. Crazy Horse is the solid backbone for Old Black to ramble around in. Awesome musical sound very well played.

Neil's solo guitar work on Old Black, stitched through several of the tracks, takes up almost an hour on this double-CD set's 88-plus minutes worth of music. The album begins with a 27-minute track called Drifting Back that is a fine slow, even meditative, rocker; numerous extended five or six-minute groves of solo guitar rocking with a good beat.


Spread through the two CDs also are two 16-minute jam songs, Ramada Inn and Walk Like A Giant. Both are solid tunes though I prefer the later song, the more up-beat of the two.  These three songs are the great pillars of Psychedelic Pill, featuring lots and lots of Old Black. Just a terrific classic Horse sound - and so generous on this massive album.

There are shorter tracks in the package as well. Born In Ontario is a catchy country/folk song that features Neil on a different electric guitar accompanying himself (via a separate studio track) on the foot-pump organ he has performed on since After The Gold Rush. They sound great together. Twisted Road and For The Love of Man are probably the weakest efforts on the album but they are not bad tunes at all and they offer a nice change to the extended rock guitar sessions. They help make the mix.

The best two songs on the album are She's Always Dancing and the title track, Psychedelic Pill. There are some cool studio effects in the "original mix" of the second song, the mix you hear first on the album. Neil includes an "alternate" mix which is really the song without any studio mixing effects, in it's pristine form, concluding the album. This song is solidly comparable to Neil's classic Cinnamon Girl make no mistake about it. Neil can still do some serious, fast rocking.


She's Always Dancing is the best track on the set. It clocks in at 8 and a half minutes. It is in the fashion of Like A Hurricane, maybe just a bit slower, but definitely of that caliber. I'd say it is Neil's best song since 2007's No Hidden Path, which ran over 23 minutes. Old Black shines proudly and deftly. I am listening to this one tune a lot these days as I first acquaint myself with this album. I often take a week or more to fully get into all the aspects of a new Neil Young release. Sometimes, years later, I'll hear something I've forgotten and go "Oh. Wow..." This song sent me into a musical stratosphere of its own.

As I said, most of the reviews for Psychedelic Pill are favorable. Initial sales are very strong. This album has some force, you might hear it or of it out there in the mainline of music. Here's a sampling of reviews I particularly enjoyed for various reasons while first listening to the album...

Slate: "Loops and lurches, guttural conversations with his amp; noise-collapses; gorgeous isolate notes, dragged and spangled across the clumsy-beautiful phrasings of Crazy Horse; frazzled wisdom in a palace of reverb; he sounds amazing."

The Washington Post: “Sprawling barely begins to describe Psychedelic Pill....The sonics range from small and intimate to over-amped and awash in feedback.”
 
National Public Radio: “... the best moments of this uneven set find him immersed in sharing what he's been thinking about lately, his complex emotional landscape.”

Rolling Stone: "For most of its near-90 minutes, Psychedelic Pill is an infuriated trip: long tracks of barbed-guitar jamming and often surrealistic ire interrupted by short bursts of warming bliss. It is a weirdly compelling seesaw."

The Chicago Tribune: "Like the blues, the albums Young makes with Crazy Horse have almost become a genre unto themselves....Crazy Horse lurches in a tar pit of noise and rumbling bass tones, Young’s guitar shrieking like a trapped beast, right down to the extended final groan of amplifier exhaust."

The New Yorker: "The last minute dissolves into a collage of clanging percussion, industrial-strength guitars, and wordless harmonies, a fitting microcosm of the power and the sense of community at the core of this protean, exhausting, energizing record."

Rhapsody: "Psychedelic Pill just might be Young's best since Rust Never Sleeps, though such superlatives are, of course, always debatable."

The Neil Young Old Black sound is my favorite version of Neil's many magnificent manifestations. There's more of Neil and Old Black on Psychedelic Pill than anything else other than Crazy Horse providing the bedrock for it all. The songs are generally very strong and the overall mix is good. It is all the more interesting when you understand his excellence was produced after a period of personal worry. He went months without being able to write a single line of music. For medical reasons he decided to stop smoking dope and drinking alcohol.  He suffered prolonged writer's block. Psychedelic Pill is a break-through for him, the first album of original music Neil has ever released which he recorded totally sober.

Which means that Neil can alter his consciousness but he can't alter his true creative self, though he can send it into hiding for a time.  Neil is still his unique musical self, as good as ever, in the different perspective of sobriety. This music is turbo-charged, conceived out of anxiety into deep thought and talented performance; an absolutely amazing and inspiring record.