Landing On Water (1986)

Landing On Water (1986)

Following Geffen-frustrating genre experiments like Everybody’s Rockin’, Trans and Old Ways, Landing On Water was Neil’s return to hard rock — sort of. Backed by a band of studio musicians and produced by the untested Danny Kortchmar, Landing On Water is also the first album Neil would make with engineer Niko Bolas, who would preside over the next few equally difficult albums. One of the only modern Neil Young albums to feature overdubbed lead vocals, Landing On Water is a claustrophobic, digital mess of synth bass, click tracks and sound effects that dated the album before it was even released. Created, inexplicably, by recording a full band overdubbing atop Neil’s skeletal acoustic guitar and drum machine demos, the album’s monstrous, gated drums frequently drown out the guitars, making the record sound both heavy and neutered simultaneously. Somehow, the results aren’t wholly objectionable: “Pressure” isn’t too far from the sort of motorik post-punk on which Spoon would build their reputation, while the David Crosby-blasting “Hippie Dream” finds Neil caustically dismantling his friend — “Another flower child goes to seed / In an ether-filled room of meat-hooks / It’s so ugly” — like Lennon going for McCartney’s throat on “How Do You Sleep?” And yet, the most positive thing to say about the much-despised Landing On Water is that it isn’t a fiasco. Neil himself was not as charitable when, a year later, he foreshadowed a future song title in his summation of the album to British radio deejay Dave Ferrin: “It’s a piece of crap.”

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