[HOT TRACK]Flame burns, but less intensely

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[HOT TRACK]Flame burns, but less intensely

"It's better to burn out than to fade away," sang Neil Young years ago. The line was originally written for Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols, but the suicidal grunge god Kurt Cobain used it as his last words. Young, often called the godfather of grunge himself, is back with his 27th solo studio album.

Born in Toronto in 1945, Young's influential career spans five decades. After starting out as a folk singer in Toronto, Young has pursued musical styles ranging from country to rhythm and blues, and including practically every slice of rock imaginable. His latest studio album goes back to a '60s soulful rock sound, after his folksy album of two years ago, "Silver and Gold."

The latest sound came about when Young enlisted the members of his old band, Crazy Horse, to play on this album. The band is now Booker T and the MG's, and features Booker T. Jones on keyboard, Donald "Duck" Dunn on bass and Steve "Smokey" Potts on drums.

The collaboration brings guitars into prominence, backed by a strong beat. Young's vocals go back to his signature, endearing whining style, akin to that on his classic song, "Heart of Gold." But the familiar singing style has uneven results here.

The song getting the most attention is "Let's Roll," about the three passengers who prevented the terrorists who hijacked one of the planes on Sept. 11 from hitting their target. Inspired by the onboard phone call of one of the passengers, Todd Beamer, Young reconstructs the situation: "No time for indecision. We got to make a move. I hope that we're forgiven for what we've got to do."

Opening with a cell phone ringing, the song makes you shudder, especially with Young's whimpering yet emphatic vocals, completed by a rough guitar riff.

While "Let's Roll" and another number, "Goin' Home," are heavy, most of the other songs are groovy, but border on being too mellow and start sounding monotonous. In tracks like "Mr. Disappointment" and "Quit (Don't Say You Love Me)", Young's voice even gets disagreeably feeble.

While the lyrics, all penned by Young, reflect his wealth of experience and maturity, they come across as weak in the delivery.

The album reminds Young's fans that he's still alive and kicking, but that youth is by no means an eternal gift. Is Young fading away, instead of burning out?

by Chun Su-jin

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