Wednesday, July 20, 2005

"The Needle and the Damage Done"

*REWRITE ALERT* This SongWithoutWhich was first blogged May 1 2004

There's a thread running through Neil Young's career - no matter how many incredible songs he has written, and Lord he has written more than a few - often you'll find someone else has done his songs better justice than he has. I'm not saying he can't sing or play, because he clearly can: his "Rocking in the Free World" is as savage and angry as anything that came out of punk, and "Cortez the Killer" can't be matched by anyone.
But songs like "Wrecking Ball" or this one seem to have gained something in their interpretation by others. This version, by The Icicle Works and Pete Wylie, is suffused with soul in a way Neil just couldn't do. The harmonies are sensational, the atmospheric production, the echo, the touch of slide guitar, all are perfect for the bare bones of a song that pays tribute to the boneyard that is drug addiction. The voices, though, are what make this; searching, mourning, wasted: "I've seen the needle and the damage done/A little part of it in everyone/But every junkie's like a setting sun." The final chorus raises the hair on the back of your neck as Pete Wylie reaches for the high notes in the background before the aching harmony closes the book.

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