Nearly every decade since Neil Young launched a solo career in 1968, the Canadian rocker has put out a watershed album with which he’s upped the ante for himself. In 1969, it was his sophomore effort, which first paired him with Crazy Horse, “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.” In 1979, punk rock was powerfully on his mind in “Rust Never Sleeps,” while 1989 brought “Freedom,” in which he fully assumed his latter-day role as a state-of-the-union messenger about what’s right, and wrong, in America.
“Silver & Gold,” which was recorded in 1999 but didn’t surface until four months into the following year, didn’t quite hit the same level of accomplishment, but with “Le Noise,” which will be released Sept. 28, Young's peaking in yet another decade, and just a few months behind schedule for keeping his streak going for years ending in 9.
The title is a wink to his collaborator, musician-songwriter-producer Daniel Lanois, who premiered the album Tuesday night for a few dozen friends, music journalists, bloggers and L.A. music world denizens at his home overlooking Silver Lake.
The assembled group packed into the living room of the early 20th century mansion on the hillside, a voluntarily captive audience for Young’s subtly subversive method of forcing listeners to hear it for the first time the way he intended: on a first-class sound system, in the dark, no distractions.
What’s striking about “Le Noise” is the way it both summarizes and distills Young’s singular approach to music, predominantly just Neil and a guitar: his big, white hollow-body Gretsch electric slashing and burning for most of the tracks, a couple built around picked and strummed acoustic instruments. Both are recorded and amplified -- literally and metaphorically -- by Lanois’ signature soundscapes that loop vocals, and enhance the guitars’ bass notes through distortion boxes, synthesizers and other electronics.