Lost & Found: Trans – Neil Young
Even in the wildly disparate back catalogue of Neil Young, 1982’s Trans stands out like an electronic sore thumb. It was hugely controversial among his fans, as the Canadian singer-songwriter’s use of a Sennheiser VSM201 vocoder and a synclavier left many scratching their heads.
After delving into New Wave with Re-ac-tor, Trans was by no means an attempt to jump onto the coattails of 80s fashion but rather part of a therapy programme that Young was using to communicate with his son Ben, who was born with cerebral palsy.
If opener Little Thing Called Love suggested traditional territory, heads were well and truly blown by Computer Age, a clear homage to a certain genre-defining electronic quartet from Düsseldorf.
We R In Control is a weird mash-up of guitars, treated vocals and synths, and the vocoder on Transformer Man is a unusual mixture of beatific and spooky. Sample And Hold seems to predict a future where you can create your own perfect robotic female mate. Visionary or pervily creepy? You decide…
Most surprising of all is a reworking of his old Buffalo Springfield gem Mr Soul. Shakey’s record company, unhappy at this turn of events, eventually tried to sue him for making “unrepresentative” albums. More than 30 years later Neil’s still confounding critics and fans alike. Long may he run.