Whatever you think about just how Neil Young's new record – The Monsanto Years – figures in his huge catalogue – one of the good ones; one of the not-so-good ones; one of the interesting failures; one of the ones Neil just didn't spend enough time on – there is an important secondary factor to the record that makes it valuable: it is a protest album fair and square, on behalf of agriculture and the culture of farming, and dead against corporate agri-business.
This is important, for the simple reason that The Monsanto Years works to undermine the one thing that Monsanto most craves: the idea that there is a consensus that GM crops are recognised as safe and unexceptionable. If Monsanto achieves that, if they persuade us all, without independent scientific assessment, that what they do is just ornery plant breeding – then we are undone. Doughty fighters such as Michael Pollan and others continue to resist the Monsanto onslaught, but their message is confined to a liberal, educated market. Neil Young has the chance to take the anti-GM message wider, which is why the new record is important.
What we would really love to see, of course, would be Bey and Jay-Z, and wan little Taylor Swift, and Flo and Blur, get on the bus with Neil Young. Our hopes are high for the brilliant Kendrick Lamarr but, to be honest, we aren't waiting around for Taylor Swift.
The Monsanto Years is out now on Warner Bros Records.