Neil Young - Le Noise on Reprise by Keith Boyd 10.17.10
Neil Young is not your bitch. After almost fifty years of doing things his own singular way, he has eked out a unique place in the music industry. From ther ringing, pastoral/Los Angeles mash-up that was Buffalo Springfield, to the deep Hippie classicism of CSNY, then on into his solo explorations, he has gone where the sound and his own ideas have led him. Sometimes these ventures place him squarely in the zeitgeist (Comes a Time, Harvest, Ragged Glory). Other times the albums and sounds are quixotic statements of interest and investigation (Trans, Re-ac-tor, Everybody’s Rockin’). No matter the style, impetus, or reception the outcome of looking at Neil Young’s career is that ultimately you arrive at a place of admiration and respect. Much like Clint Eastwood, in Young we have an artist who continues to experiment and innovate in ways those half their age should envy. All of which brings us to the newest Neil Young exploration of sound and texture, LeNoise.
Appropriately enough, the album opens with a devastating guitar chord. In many ways, this chord says all there needs to be said about the album. It is full-throated, buzzing with distortion and seems to fill the air with equal measures of dread and celebration. But of course that’s not all. The chord evolves into a stuttering riff that producer Daniel Lanois then bends and mutates to tell a story in sound all its own. These elements are the one-two-punch that make this album such a joy. Young’s guitar, cranked up to what must have been a gloriously punishing volume, mixed with the echoing, Dub with no hint of Reggae, sonic manipulations courtesy of Lanois. Young is in great voice throughout. His weedy, plaintive exhortations fill the space with a wounded prophetic glow. Lyrically, there are the timeless themes of sorrow, redemption, love and loyalty. Neil Young’s songs have always been stellar examples of the idiosyncratic and specific turned-outward and into universal and recognizable statements. Condemnation (Angry World) butts upagainst reflections on love and support (Walk With Me).
Le Noise is a rarity in music these days. It is naked, yet brightly arrayed in baroque ornamentation. These opposing, yet complementary forces might lead you to think of the album as a guitar/song collection, but that would be a mistake. Some alchemy transmutes these simple ingredients into a full banquet of ideas, textures, and enjoyment. This is an album that will reward deep listening, and, if you let it in, become a part of your life.