Sleeps With Angels
In his suicide note, Kurt Cobain quoted Neil Young’s line “It’s better to burn out than to fade away”. Young responded with the song ‘Sleeps With Angels’, dedicated to Cobain, while the terminal illness of producer David Briggs, a longtime Young collaborator, also casts a shadow over Sleeps With Angels. Angels has thematic weight and it successfully updates Young’s 1970s’ style with a heavier, more distorted production. Yet, it’s also a little underwhelming; the songs rarely are much more than competent, the best song is drawn out to almost fifteen minutes of running time, while two of the other songs even go as far as sharing the same melody.
The fifteen minutes of ‘Change Your Mind’ is arguably a wasted opportunity, it’s melodic and hooky and could have made a great three minute single a la ‘Cinnamon Girl’. The other standout is opener ‘My Heart’, with Young playing creaky tack piano and cracking his voice. The punk of ‘Piece Of Crap’ has terrific anti-materialist lyrics (“Saw it on the tube/Bought it on the phone/Now you’re home alone/With a piece of crap”), and is a welcome change of pace from the more torpid songs here.
Sleeps With Angels is one of Neil’s more substantial post seventies records, but it’s a little too padded out to be among his best.