Crosby, Stills & Nash, their California vocal harmonic juggernaut watered down to detuned Pavementisms, ’70s Rod Stewart appearing in a Maggie May vocal break, The Kinks chirruping chord changes and analog glitter – none of these make for a compelling musical statement, all rooted in a benign past. But they are well-executed, the production ebbs and dives with understated textural skill, the wavering out-of-tune vocal performance is Neil Young or Silver Jews-esque with its ability to make deliberate avoidance of the natural notes.
The ’60s is a pulped decade. The machinations of historical revisionism have folded back upon themselves; cancel and cancel again, negating the negation in interminable revisits of revisits. Hippy capital, neo-commons, chemical emancipation – in subsequent decades everything would have their turn again, and better. The decade is beyond sepia now, it has both darkened like a poorly-kept painting, and bleached into a blinding white by an over-exuberant photo processor.
But still there are records, and this is one of them, which reaffirm the decade as a white-folk’s secular spiritual repository, which produce some version of freedom, a joyous disappearance dredged from remaining archetypes. When you mix freedom with the untarnished sheen of nostalgia it can never be squalid or difficult like the potentially difficult contemporary realities.
Myth creation is easier when you tap the obvious. And indeed, being aware of the processes of myth creation is a lesson which Johnny imparts, as his creators tell us: “We recorded the record and we were like, ‘Oh, this kinda seems like it’s about some guy, who just seems to be a thread through it.’ He was greeted in that way. So, afterwards we created that myth.” If only they had sought more interesting myths in their music.