Allan Jones

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Young is always trying to catch up with himself, to keep pace with his own prolific, quixotic imagination. His albums are often attempts to document his changing moods and perspectives, to offer his latest idea of himself to the world. Thus the fractured chronology of his output, as he constantly reassesses his stocks of material and revises the content of scheduled releases….

["Rust Never Sleeps"] deals most blatantly with Young's obsessive restlessness, the constant need to change, to remain mobile. "It's better to burn out than it is to rust"….

The general mood is reflective; the songs, however, are not all especially memorable. "Sail Away" is only vaguely realised. Young stresses the desire for escape over an ordinary melody. The lyric is bland, predictable. "Thrasher" shares the same preoccupation. The melody is again familiar. The lyric is distressingly verbose.

Young has never revealed a provocative or assured talent for metaphor; his best songs have been direct, emotionally explicit statements. He has a gift for atmosphere and an ability to draw together oblique, moving images (as on "Ambulance Blues," say), but his sense of involved poetry is negligible. Here his diluted Dylanesque rambling is merely embarrassing. When he sings about "the aimless blade of science" and "the windy halls of friendship" I hope only that he was writing with his tongue in his cheek, not his head up his arse.

"Ride My Llama" has the rural feel of "For The Turnstiles," but the lyric has no specific thrust. "I'm gonna ride my Ilama from Peru to Texarkana," he warbles. Are we supposed to laugh? The only real success is "Marlon Brando, Pocohontas And Me," an old song … that features a more successful synthesis of concern and mildly surreal humour….

"Powerfinger" has a bizarre narrative, violent and bewildering. Young sings about drowned wenches, alcoholic fathers, pirates on the river threatening the homestead….

"Sedan Chair" is no less intriguing. Young's scenario here features the narrator playing pool with a woman with varicose veins, mad scientists, Caesar and Cleopatra and a blood-thirsty dentist….

"Welfare Mothers" … exhausts my powers of interpretation…. It sounds like an unholy alliance between the Plastic Ono Band and Queen. I find it utterly irresistible.

"Hey, Hey, My, My (Into The Black)" takes the album down the aisle to the checkout counter….

The final effect is like inviting people round to bang you on the head with hammers. It's all beyond me, chaps.

I know I like half this album. The rest I could probably learn to live with. The more I listen to it, the more it frustrates me and the more I like it.

Allan Jones, "The Plot Thickens," in Melody Maker (© IPC Business Press Ltd.), June 30, 1979, p. 41.

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