Neil Young's Living With War Fails to Blitzkrieg Charts

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Neil Young's antiwar and anti-Bush album Living With War, after receiving what was surely more press and chatter than any other pop album this year, debuts at 15 on the charts, with only 60,000 sales in the first week. In comparison, Surprise by fellow fogey Paul Simon, minus the pre-release political debate, also debuts on the charts this week, at 14 with 61,000 copies sold.

Back in 2002, Neil's little-awaited stinkbomb Are You Passionate? managed to sell 56,000 its first week. Despite the controversy, Neil doesn't seem to have broken very far beyond his natural audience these days with Living With War. I wrote about the likely fecklessness of Neil's political gesture last month.

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  1. It’s because the album sucks, and nobody cares what a washed-up ex-coke freak thinks about shit or shinola.

  2. It’s because the album sucks, and nobody cares what a washed-up ex-coke freak thinks about shit or shinola.

    Washed up? Have you seen “Heart of Gold?” You and I should be so washed up at any point in our lives.

  3. I’m sure if we all put our heads together we can figure out some way to blame this all on Bush… is Soundscan owned by Diebold? C’mon, people!

  4. I’m sure if we all put our heads together we can figure out some way to blame this all on Bush… is Soundscan owned by Diebold? C’mon, people!

  5. The first half of Jamie’s comment nails it, I think. Neil Young isn’t exactly washed up–Lord knows I’d love to be Neil Young–but what I’ve heard of this album just sucks. Why can’t today’s “political” music be as good as it was in the 60s and 70s? Or hell, even as good as a select few bands in the 80s (Dead Kennedys) and 90s (Bad Religion)?

  6. I thought the verse about Obama and Colin Powell was funny/true. Heard a couple of songs on the radio and I like the guitar playing. Not enuf to buy the album or anything crazy like that.

    Even now, I would trust Colin Powell’s wmd assessments b4 I would trust the charts to fairly track sales.

  7. It’s because the album sucks, and nobody cares what a washed-up ex-coke freak thinks about shit or shinola.

    Are you sure? We elected one as president.

  8. Maybe it’s not selling because it is too good for this earth.

    Or, even though polls show that most people now believe the war is a mess, perhaps most people don’t feel comfortable reveling in that belief–to music.

    Or perhaps people feel, “Hey, it’s easy to put out an anti-war album NOW. Where was this music 3 years ago? CDs ain’t cheap, dude.”

  9. I listened to about half the songs from the album on Napster the other day, and yes, it does suck. Plus his singing voice has gone downhill too.

  10. Gotta agree with Ethan here. Talk about being late!

    Besides, didn’t Neil have an anti-Bush album out back in ’91?

    I fully expect Neil to release a Chinese Democracy album before GnR get around to it.

  11. I’m not a particular Neil Young fan, but there are a couple good songs on the album. That said, “Let’s Impeach the President” sucks just as badly as the name would imply.

  12. Hey, it’s easy to put out an anti-war album NOW. Where was this music 3 years ago?

    Exactly. It’s not like the war just broke out. Most of us have moved from “prevent/stop the war”, to “fuck the war, who cares, waste all our money and let the country go bankrupt and get it over with already, who gives a fuck.”

    Also, there was “hype” and “buzz” about this album? Honestly have never heard about it. Maybe I need to get on some lefty emailing lists or something.

  13. Ind. Worm – it was only hyped to Marlon Brando, Pocahontas, and me…

  14. Kudos to Neil for doing an anti-war, anti-Bush album. Does he have a song taking on Bush for expanding government like a drunken Democrat?

    Bring our troops home now

  15. Kudos to Neil for doing an anti-war, anti-Bush album. Does he have a song taking on Bush for expanding government like a drunken Democrat?

    Bring our troops home now

  16. I still haven’t forgiven Neil for that “Grampa” thing.

  17. Those of you who think that “Living With War” is a bad album have been spending too much time filling your ipods with The Pussycat Dolls and Kelly Clarkson. Obviously you aren’t Neil Young fans to begin with, and that’s ok. There are those of us who like listening to a quality rock’n roll that has the power to generate conversation and debate, and there are those of you who like the bubble-gum jibberish that has the power to manipulate the latest fashion trends. This album is good, heartfelt and gritty. Had it been released amoungst Young’s earlier work, perhaps around the time of “Rust Never Sleeps”, people would be looking back on it as a classic. So put your earbuds back in, Jamie Kelly, and turn up your Nick Lachey. After 40 years, Neil Young continues to be a breath of fresh air in this stale music industry.

  18. I remember he did songs that were therapeutic for guys with relationship problems with gals.

  19. Could the low sales of Neil Young’s album be related to the fact that he gave it away free on the internet?

  20. Maybe people just realized that Neil young really, really sucks as a singer.

  21. I’m a major, longtime Neil fan and haven’t heard the new album, although I’m quite ready to believe that it’s as lousy as everybody says it is. (His career has always been a hills-and-valleys affair.)

    But who in the world would say that Paul Simon’s Surprise was “deliberately unhyped” when he promoted it not only on The Today Show, but on Saturday Night Live as well. (And possibly other venues that I missed.) Yeah, sure looks like Warner Bros. did everything they could to keep the whole thing hush-hush.

  22. Another version of this may well appear—server screwy–but Drew W, you are right and I was wrong. I’ve amended the post accordingly. I was going by the early reports a few months back of the Simon-Eno collaboration that as I recall noted they were done under-the-radar minus the usual announcements of “major artist in the studio” that start trickling out a year or so in advance to the rock specialty press. But certainly there was plenty of pre-release promotion done in the past month for Simon’s album—all of which I missed, hence my mistake (proving I read more about politics than pop these days), but that doesn’t mean it didn’t exist.

  23. Those of you who think that “Living With War” is a bad album have been spending too much time filling your ipods with The Pussycat Dolls and Kelly Clarkson. Obviously you aren’t Neil Young fans to begin with, and that’s ok. There are those of us who like listening to a quality rock’n roll that has the power to generate conversation and debate, and there are those of you who like the bubble-gum jibberish that has the power to manipulate the latest fashion trends. This album is good, heartfelt and gritty. Had it been released amoungst Young’s earlier work, perhaps around the time of “Rust Never Sleeps”, people would be looking back on it as a classic. So put your earbuds back in, Jamie Kelly, and turn up your Nick Lachey. After 40 years, Neil Young continues to be a breath of fresh air in this stale music industry.

    Another Onion parody writes itself.

  24. Brian–

    Hey, no problem. I should’ve ended my third sentence with a question mark, so we all make mistakes. Don’t let it bring you d– nah, forget it. I still feel guilty about joining in on that They Might Be Giants song-quote dorkfest a couple weeks ago . . .

  25. it’s getting great reviews over on democraticunderground.com

  26. Kyle is right on with his comments. This is a rocking album with lyrics that hit the mark right on. We could have changed our minds/but wisdom was hard to find….Neil rocks! Bush sucks!

  27. Or perhaps people feel, “Hey, it’s easy to put out an anti-war album NOW. Where was this music 3 years ago?

    Well, those of us who saw Neil on the Greendale tour caught the not-so-subtle anti-war and ant-Patriot Act messages loud and clear. Remember the Clear Channel “Support Our War” billboard? And the John Ashcroft footage, etc.? I mean, I understand not everyone is a Neil Young fan and especially not as big a one as I am; but are we really, here on Reason, judging the merits of an album by how it sells or charts? I wonder how On the Beach charted compared to whatever Grand Funk Railroad album was released that year. So I leave you with Neil from the spring of 2003:

    “But there’s no need to worry,
    No reason to fuss.
    Just go on about your work now,
    And leave the driving to us.
    And we’ll be watching you,
    In everything you do.
    And you can do your part,
    By watching others, too.”

  28. Those of you who think that “Living With War” is a bad album have been spending too much time filling your ipods with The Pussycat Dolls and Kelly Clarkson.

    No, in fact, it is possible to both like Young and think this one is a stinker.

    Tastes do, in fact, vary without being wrong.

    A good political rock album would be quite welcome. This one just isn’t it.

    I’m sticking with Big Black’s Songs About Fucking as the best soundtrack to this administration.

  29. It’s never too late……we didn’t stop or give up in Vietnam….

    Hey, it’s easy to put out an anti-war album NOW. Where was this music 3 years ago?

    Exactly. It’s not like the war just broke out. Most of us have moved from “prevent/stop the war”, to “fuck the war, who cares, waste all our money and let the country go bankrupt and get it over with already, who gives a fuck.”

    Like Neil said it’s not time to mince words anymore or be politically correct or subtle. We all should be screaming this from the roof tops and get our country out of this mess we stood by and let our mis-guided leaders create. We should be looking for a leader and not one that’s just like Bush like Kerry was trying to be or Bush trying to be like Reagon was or the same ole crap.

    We’ve got to move, there’s no time left to stall.

  30. This album is nowhere near as good as Prairie Wind, which Neil Young released only a couple of months ago. Young is by far my favorite musician, singer, and songwriter… nobody is better.

  31. We should be looking for a leader and not one that’s just like Bush like Kerry was trying to be or Bush trying to be like Reagon was or the same ole crap.

    How about a Hillary/Cindy Sheehan ticket?

    When you look in the mirror do you ever see a dinosaur looking back?

  32. minus the usual announcements of “major artist in the studio”

    You never hear that about Neil Young since he’s always in the studio. Which I appreciate, cuz whenever a recording artist futzes around with songs for 5+ years, they always wind up making crappy albums with all the inspiration drained out of them completely. At least Neil gets the stuff out of his system instead of letting the crap fester.

  33. Well, just a couple comments:

    Prairie Wind was just released 7-8 months ago and sold close to 100,000 its first week and close to 500,000 total, a lot for Neil Young. He is usually good for 200,000-300,000 sales or so these days. hes a consistently good, though not huge seller.

    This was a nontraditional release. It was rushed and there was no firm release date and setup.. Usually you would know for a couple months an exact date ( and with most major labels get pushed back a couple times). While this shows Neil probably has some great pull with his record label ( they usually dont rush releases like this)..it also shows its not the kind of release setup to maximize first week sales.. I mean I remember reading things like it will be released “sometime in May” or “sometime around may 8-9) literally a few days before it came out.

    I even read on Neil Young’s website that it will “be in stores sometime this week” and that they were rushing it and shipping directly t the stores from the manufacturing facility and that there was no firm date that all stores would have it. This is a lot different than the normal first week Soundscan hyped setup where fans know months in advance the exact tuesday of release.. There were probably no release day Virgin in-stores, no midnight lines, no Clive Davis handing out donuts to fans,etc.

    Even with all that said, I would say 60,000 sales in a week is NOT low for a 60 year old rocker whose commrcial career peaked about 33 years ago ( other than the early 90s Harvest sequel), who mostly sells around that much ( yet labels still are eager to have), and was a rushed, low budget effort ( no million dollar producers, no payola, no TRL,etc)

  34. Since when has Neil cared about sales? IT;s THE MESSAGE, STUPID!

  35. I’d hardly heard of Neil Young before this album, but I heard about it and went to the website. I honestly think that the rush-recording added to the effect, and I don’t just mean for some kind of political symbolism; politics was so at the core of this music that anything affecting its political message affected its musical quality. In other words I like it more because it’s so rush-created. That seems real to me.

    I ended up buying the album (which I almost never do), even though I’d gone through the trouble of actually recording it off the website. But I wouldn’t be shocked if the low sales are a result of the website streaming, and of course Neil didn’t care about sales as long as people were “getting the message.” I hope that people (other than the type that skip ahead to ‘Let’s Impeach the President’) hear it.

    From what I’m hearing, I’m a little too left to agree with Neil all the time, but I like his message here, and I like the music. It seems like the *good* anti-war music is finally back.

  36. Huh? Who is Neal Young?

  37. Huge Neil Young fan here, have been for over 37 years. And musically, anyway, I think “Living With War” mostly delivers the goods. By this I mean people who are already Neil Young fans will probably like the musical songwriting and performance, NOT that it will convert non-fans into fans. (Come on, admit it, that high-pitched voice and staccato electric guitar are acquired tastes.) In other words, musically it’s a pretty good Neil Young / Crazy Horse “rock” album.

    But lyrically, the thing sucks worms. Young’s no brilliant student of politics or international relations. Unfortunately, he apparently THINKS he is, and takes his own uninformed opinion here VERY seriously. Which makes for sucky lyrics. Young’s usual brilliant insight and caustic humor have completely abandoned him on this lyrical piece of crap. Since I happen to support the American mission in Iraq, naturally I disagree with Young’s lyrics on this album. But even if I opposed the Iraq war, I’d STILL hate these lyrics, because they’re self-serious, sophomoric anti-war pap. The complex story-telling power of “Powderfinger” this ain’t.

    Bottom line: I think this album will sell to die-hard Young fans who happen to oppose the war, and to a few thousand anti-war nuts who marginally like Young but haven’t bought any of his albums since “Harvest.” Will it break 200,000 units in the U.S.? I seriously doubt it. Most anyone who gives a sh*t about this album will buy it within the first 2 weeks, meaning it will sell less than 150,000 units total. The rest of us will simply wait for Mr. Young to record a decent album.

  38. well, Jamie Kelley it looks like you have nothing else to do at 1:40 in the MORNING than to write shit about an icon protesting a war..well fuck you because you obviously are a republican son of a bitch that doesnt give a shit about your country or the people dying in iraq. so next time youre up at 1:40 am and you need something to do with your pathetic life, A. write me an e-mail or B. GO FUCK YOURSELF

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