Quite a despair

Neil Young and Pearl Jam create the perfectly imperfect Mirror Ball

But it's appropriate he should follow "Yesterday" with the ranting, anthemic "Peace and Love"--the only song to which Vedder contributed lyrics, and the only one on which he shares lead vocals. Its lyrics conjure John Lennon explicitly and Kurt Cobain implicitly: "Peace and love/Flying so high/Peace and love/Too young to die," Young sings at the onset, pleading with the listener to hold on for the sake of the children, though Kurt did not. Instead, Cobain believed his "strength was gone," he felt as though he was "dying inside," and so he made his peace through his own death. We're "deserted by heroes," Young shrugs, "strangers in your own land."

Mirror Ball, like so many of Young's albums, is populated with people who gave up or gave in--the walking wounded who are "looking at the grave," fallen angels who "move like waves behind the beat," boys and girls who march down "the road to never." He presents a desolate portrait of an America where hate ravages us all and freedom comes at the cost of the heart; it's a place filled with people who need human contact and are greeted instead by gravestones and blaring TV sets. We are nothing but "media image slaves," Young intones, desperately seeking heroes and inexplicably surprised and disappointed when we find there aren't any.

Young himself doesn't want to be a hero: "If you want to take a hero home/I'll stay behind," he warns. He only wants to find love and hope in this land of "constant strangers," and not even for him--but, as always, for everyone, which is what makes Young so special. After all this time, he still does not judge, he only observes; he does not even interpret, he only hears. And he continues to lead the search, to light the path and shout the questions over an enormous roar. We are forced to find our own answers, and damned if some of them aren't right there on Mirror Ball itself.

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