I've never thought much about Neil Young. My parents owned some of his early albums and I was friends with an obsessive Young-ophile, but he only entered my consciousness when he did something brilliant, weird, or stupid.
A guy named R. loaned me Neil Young's "Human Highway" DVD, which I was anxious to see because of its colourful reputation and its high Devo-goodness conent. The movie, true to form, is a cynical, stoned-out, incomprehensible mess...but it captivates somehow, like an exotic and somewhat scary child's toy.
I also found myself liking Young's music in the film, which was largely pulled from his equally infamous vocoder-dominated album "Trans." I asked R. if I could borrow the album. Typically, R. gave me a DVD containing Young's entire music catalog from 1963 to 2006. And I can't possess an exhaustive catalog without listening to it all.
So I'm working my way through Neil Young's music, from beginning ("The Mynah Birds") to the end (so far). Sometimes I think he's one of the best songwriters around, and sometimes I think he writes like somebody who couldn't care less. I love his crunchy Crazy Horse stuff and I'm less enamored with his sort of whiny, over-serious folk material. I remember how gratifying it was to see decrepit, ugly Neil kicking Pearl Jam's butt during the MTV Music Video awards many years ago. The guy can really play guitar. Eddie Vedder bothers me.
I can't see myself going on a massive music-buying spree here, but my respect for Neil Young has gone up significantly. And he mixes with Devo better than you'd ever imagine.
PS: I agonized over whether to add a "Canadiana" tag to this post. We treat Neil Young like a native son when he succeeds, and we deride him as an American sell-out when he embarasses us. I doubt that Young himself considers himself to be a Canadian after all these years...so no tag for you, Mr. Yankee.