Friday, November 28, 2008

Neil Young 17: Trans

Obviously needing some kind of inspiration, Neil signed a new contract with onetime associate David Geffen, and went off to Hawaii to start an album to be called Island In The Sun. Halfway through he changed tack and started working with synthesizers and vocoders, ending up with a hodgepodge of a mess supported by various players cherry-picked from previous bands. The resulting Trans suffers from contemporary sheen that sounded dated a year later, as well as the use of Stephen Stills percussionist Joe Lala—always a bad idea.
“Little Thing Called Love” is a congenial stab at a Neil Young song that doesn’t work, but it’s put here to prepare us for what comes next. “Computer Age” has some cool chords amidst the techno effects, but the pseudo-operatic vocals fail. “We R In Control” is laughably bad. “Transformer Man” is the highlight of the album, with operatic vocals that actually enhance the melody. “Computer Cowboy” starts out with promise, but is just awful.
“Hold On To Your Love”, combined with the other similarly titled songs, doesn’t inspire any need to hear the rest of the abandoned Island In The Sun project. “Sample And Hold” makes its point early—it’s literally about computer dating—then beats it senseless. The remake of “Mr. Soul” sounds like a demo to see if his new equipment worked. “Like An Inca” takes back the original Island In The Sun idea and mixes it with his Indian infatuation, but again, it just doesn’t do anything. Can we still blame it on Joe Lala?
To appreciate where he was coming from with the whole computer idea, we must consider that the album was a reaction to living with a child who couldn’t communicate in the traditional fashion. But that doesn’t make it any easier to enjoy. Fans were perplexed, critics were nasty, and his new record company was already getting nervous.

Neil Young Trans (1982)—2

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