Raw: The Monsanto Years

It’s not sugar-coated. It certainly isn’t polished. Neil Young realizes that we ain’t got time for that. So he slapped together his latest album, The Monsanto Years, layering great rock with blunt protest and rushed to release it last week. Many critics now label him as grizzled and lazy, yet what he’s got to say is a bitter pill no amount of high fructose corn syrup will make easy to swallow. Having your freedoms removed for corporate interests isn’t palatable no matter how you slice it, particularly when it comes to food quality, and your right to eat well, earn well, or live well.

Neil Young: The Monsanto Years album coverCommenting on reviews features the pro-GMO crowd waxing forth on Young’s misunderstanding of genetically modified seed. Nothing new there. They pontificate the good it is doing, while the reality is that it’s good only for agrigiant coffers. A fact that the co-founder of Farm Aid is attuned to, as are the Promise of the Real band members, which includes Willie Nelson’s sons, Lukas and Micah. A collaboration that reverberates from the heart throughout the tracks.

It’s raw. It’s a collection of protest songs. A rant against corporate greed, dependence, slavery, and patenting life. It’s a protest against the loss of so many freedoms… including having a choice about what you eat.

In “Big Box”, Neil reminds you that full time employment at WalMart is a pipe dream, a promise everyone traded in supporting mom and pop on Main Street for shopping there instead. A choice that did away with their own ability to earn well along with it. Young goes on to rant that if you’re rich enough you can break the law and not go to jail, because when big biz falls, they fall on you to pump them back up to solvency. In “People Want to Hear About Love”, he rants about the population only wanting to hear about love because it makes them feel better about the state of the world and their lives. One critic calls it completely lacking in “feel-good entertainment,” which the world would have far less appetite for if the state of planet was less ragged and dismal.

Why is he attacking Monsanto, when there are other GMO crop seed companies out there? None of them is as aggressive at world domination as Monsanto, and for those who believe that the agribusiness only owns a third of the seeds in the world… you’re mistaken. They own over 50%, and are constantly acquiring more through mergers and subsidiaries. They don’t just own patented varieties, but the largest seed company in the world with rights to control even many heirloom and long-time home gardening favorites. They can now remove them all from the market, or tamper with them… as they see fit to further their corporate interests. Like buying out Syngenta, and moving their world headquarters to a foreign country for lower US taxes, among other benefits.

[alert type=white ]”I understand the criticism that the lyrics may come across as clunky or overly blunt, but I appreciate the artistic choice to be the least subtle possible. These are not weird lefty politics, the manner in which corporations have bought our government out from under us transcends liberal vs conservative ideals. We’re no longer in a democracy, but a corporatocracy. The bailout was endorsed by Republicans and Democrats alike, and essentially threw capitalism in the trash in favor of “too big too fail.” Say what you will about the potential for GMOs to feed the masses or whatever, but we deserve the choice to ingest that shit, and you’re fooling yourself if you think Monsanto is looking out for the starving children in Africa.” — Philip (comment on YouTube’s Big Box video[/alert]

So, yes, what Neil Young has on his mind here needs to be delivered fast, unprocessed, and unsweetened. The Monsanto Years isn’t meant to be classic rock. Its about freedoms you’re losing right now: real food, true prosperity, independence and growing rights. Tart opens people’s eyes. Sweet is expectable, and what’s really going on isn’t what most expect at all. It’s not part of the regular programming. That’s not going to stand apart from, as he sings, “the wrong side of right, the right side of wrong.”

Here’s the entire album recording in a live documentary filmed on site at the studio, Teatro with the Promise of the Real band:

Catch the live version of Neil Young + Promise of the Real US Tour Dates
Album available on Google Play, Amazon, and a selection of other music merchants.

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Tammy Clayton

Contributing Writer at Garden Culture Magazine

Tammy has been immersed in the world of plants and growing since her first job as an assistant weeder at the tender age of 8. Heavily influenced by a former life as a landscape designer and nursery owner, she swears good looking plants follow her home.