Got the new Neil Young record this week, Le Noise (his much talked about collaboration with legendary producer Daniel Lanios), and it’s really, really strong. Backed solely by his guitar, this is no mellow acoustic album but rather a sonic boxing match, with over-driven guitar tones trading blows with tortured vocals while Lanios calls the match, washing the commentary in layers of slap-back echo and sounds effect to set the scene, which almost gives everything a dub feel. Imagine Neil jamming through the Edge’s guitar rig and you have the basic idea of what it sounds like. Performance-wise, it’s stripped down, live and uncompromising and sonically, there’s nothing similar in the man’s back cataloge – you gotta respect Neil, simply for being one of the few older guys (along with Dylan and Tom Waits) who are consistently taking chances and pushing themselves, whether successful or not, in new directions.
Much like Gil Scott Heron’s also excellent I’m New Here, this collection of 8 songs works best when listened to in one sitting, where it almost comes across as a conversation, with Young’s stream of consciousness lyrics dancing around topics verse-to-verse in his unique style. There’s a lot of self reflection, with lyrics referencing his years coming up in the music biz, drugs, family relationships and the state of the world. My favorite track by far is the heartbreaking Love and War, with lyrics like “I’ve seen a lot of young men go to war and leave a lot of young brides waiting. I watch them try to explain it to their kids and seen a lot of them failing “. Other favorites included Angry World, Peace Valley Boulevard and The Hitchhiker (videos below.) but, like I said, as a complete piece of work, this album is great so do yourself a favor and turn off the shuffle on your ipod and just enjoy the ride.
If you’re the type of fan who likes Neil at his most “grunge”, his most passionate or angry, then this album will provide plenty of ear candy. It’s excellent. Let’s hope these two cross paths again somewhere down the road.