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Album review: Neil Young's 'Le Noise'

Neilyoung Neil Young is an experimental artist working in a pop mode; he wants his music to be relevant, but he doesn’t care about either proving himself great or staying hip, the usual stumbling blocks for aging baby boomer rock stars. Young just wants to hear how something (a choir, an R&B band, a concept like the history of automobiles) sounds when it collides with his fundamental warped-folk sound. A strong sense of entitlement, the bane of many in his generation, is his ace in the hole. Not caring what anybody thinks keeps him attuned to himself.

He does make room for collaborators, though, and on “Le Noise,” his 34th solo studio album, he engages in a clarifying dialogue. Young recorded the tracks in the Silver Lake home of producer Daniel Lanois, using just his voice and mostly electric guitar; the studio master then remixed and enhanced them. The result lands in the same ballpark as work by much younger artists such as Joseph Arthur or even Best Coast, though the mood is more reflective.

At times, the sound heats up, as on the earnest “Walk With Me” and the Bo Diddley-touched “Rumblin'.” But in general, this is an easy album to enjoy, something not always true of Young’s recent output. The treatments Lanois gives Young’s raw performances don’t distract from their basic emotional tone, and if the lyrics sometime seem simplistic, Young’s worn, gentle vocals lend them an authenticity that’s neither showy nor dogmatic. He revisits his favorite themes, from marriage and the pull of family to the ecological fate of the Earth, without fussing over them. “Le Noise” is not an epic -– if it were a book, you could read it in an afternoon -– but it’s statement enough from a man who’s already said so much.

-- Ann Powers

Neil Young

Le Noise


Three and a half stars


Neil Young and Daniel Lanois click on 'Le Noise'

Photo gallery: Neil Young in The Times


Comments () | Archives (4)

I listened to the stream of this album on NPR this week and I think it is an amazing album. Neil continues to challenge himself and listeners everywhere with songs that are engaging, artful and authentic.

These are dark times, and Neil's music is in tune with a world spinning out of control.

Ann, would it hurt to review the music and not just the themes and words? This album begs for a description of the sound and the instruments. Isn't that what music is all about?

Mz Powers' review reads more like a biographical sketch. As *criticism* it falls into the trap of what some regard as the "biographical fallacy." Though I'm no slave to Formalist prejudice, it would be nice to be pr0vided some *hint* of what this music sounds like. In the capacity of critic for a major American newspaper, Powers will have heard far more music than most. She could, for example, use her experience to say: "this record is reminiscent of 'x' and 'y'?" If it doesn't remind her of *anything*, perhaps she could focus on "Le Noise"'s complete and unprecedented originality. That would be a story in itself.

saw the movie on line and was amazed how much i really liked it! mind blow times a hundred. listened to the music only in my car the next day and it held up although i found myself wanting to see the visual. great record and movie guys. thank you.


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