When Neil Young released Living With War, his 2006 album with a song titled “Let’s Impeach the President,” the spontaneity and bellicosity of the lyrics brought to mind the era’s blog posts. But like, say, one-time presidential candidate Bob Graham, who was mocked for his meticulous diaries, Young simply got to the idea of constant self-documentation before technology made it popular for the rest of us. From “Ohio” and “Southern Man” to his pro-Reagan period and the regrettable post-9/11 “Let’s Roll,” Young has never shied away from politics in his music, and the results are as mixed musically as they have been politically.
“Who’s Gonna Stand Up,” a call to protect the environment, arrives in a hashtag age (#whosgonnastandup has a nice ring to it). As the iconic, influential singer/songwriter speaks for the Earth — over ragged guitar and gospel singers, plus a smattering of horns — it’s as if he’s a rock’n’roll Lorax: “This all starts with you and me,” the backup vocalists roar. It’s simplistic, and self-evidently polemical (“And fossil fuel … and fracking”), but it’s endearingly Neil Young. They ended up cutting the Lorax sequence out of Seussical: The Musical, but that doesn’t mean his message can’t carry a tune.