You can hear Neil Young addressing Crazy Horse at the end of Americana's first track. "It's really funky. It gets into a good groove," he says of their version of Oh Susannah. This leads one to wonder how he defines "funky", since his version resembles nothing so much as a pub band playing Shocking Blue's Venus with different lyrics. And there's Americana in a nutshell: beloved songs from America's past, be they folk, blues or pop songs, such as the Silhouette's 1958 No 1 Get a Job, put through the mangle of Young's overdriven guitar and stretched to unnecessary lengths. It's like Bruce Springsteen's Seeger Sessions album, but with attention to detail replaced by one-take sloppiness. It sounds great – there's space between all the instruments, with none of the compression that blights many albums today. It also feels almost impossibly pointless. Where Springsteen used the past to illustrate the present, Young sounds like he's doing whatever comes to mind, which is surely the only explanation for Americana's last song: God Save the Queen. Not the Pistols, the national anthem.
Michael Hann is a freelance writer, and former music editor of the Guardian