I won't deny Neil his right to say "let's" in "Let's Impeach the President," since his kids are subject to any draft that might occur. But I am beginning to detect a layer of artifice in Living With War that I hadn't thought about before. I was trying to decide if I liked the "cast of thousands" backing vocals. I normally don't like that style, and it seemed especially out of place given how very stripped down the rest of the instrumentation is. (I think it is just one guitar, bass and drums, with occasional trumpet.)
TIME: Are you an American or Canadian citizen?
I’m a Canadian. I’d like to vote in the U.S. election because I feel like I’ve got just as much right to vote in them as anybody else. I’ve lived here for so long, paid taxes for so long and my kids have to register for selective service. I guess I could be a dual citizen, but if I ever had to give up my Canadian citizenship to become American I wouldn’t do it, because I wouldn’t want to hurt Canada. I love Canada. As I get older, more and more I start singing about Canada. My wife’s a California girl, so she loves to be near the ocean, and I love to be near her. So I’m probably going to be here longterm. But a part of me, I don’t know, maybe I’ll get a cabin up in Canada so when I’m older I can sit on the gold coast up in B.C. and look around. Or be up in the Rockies up there around Banff or something. I wouldn’t mind going back, being part of it again.
Then I realized why the cast of thousands was there. They are the American people. That also might explain some of the moments of centerism in the album--the appeals to patriotism. Neil is a story teller, the kind who generally tells stories not his own. Think of Powderfinger. On some level, the outrage of Living With War is not Neil's. It is the outrage he sees that the American people have. He is a channel for their story.
Also, "The Restless Consumer" is the best song I have heard in years.
Update: Another example of the artifice: "Flags of Freedom" opens with the whole cast of thousands singing "Today's the day our younger son/ is going off to war." Neil doesn't want you to think about his personal outrage. He doesn't have a younger son in Iraq. There is a story of a family that has sent off its younger son, and it is so emblematic of the national experience that you can here the whole nation singing it, in unison.