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Monday, September 20, 2010

Comment of the Moment: Le Noise Video "Hitchhiker"

Neil Young and Daniel Lanois
Photo by Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Already much anticipation of Neil Young's new album Le Noise scheduled for release next week.

The release appears to be receiving much praise from just the two pre-release videos "Hitchhiker" and "Angry World". And on the flip side, based on what has been heard thus far, there are some detractors of Producer Daniel Lanois' "sonics". Over on Glorious Noise some rather furious debate on Lanois' production and Young's lyrics. For a moment we thought we had stumbled onto a TW thread...

Which brings us to the Neil Young Comment of the Moment on Le Noise's video "Hitchhiker" by Greg M.:
I haven't heard the album yet, just a few songs that provide an idea about the sound that Lanois brings to the project. I think it's fair to say that the basic concept of feeding the sound through technology that makes it come out the other end with a different sound is not ground breaking- and trust me, I am an ignoramus when it comes to technical studio stuff, and frankly, all I know about Daniel Lanois is what I've read here the last few weeks, and that in general he has a very good reputation as a performer/producer.

But I think this angle misses the point. No one has ever suggested that Neil is particularly ground breaking, in terms of the musical forms he adopts, although just off the top of my head, I do think he has been instrumental in the development of country rock. I mean, I'm sure Neil would be the first to admit that he did not invent the Stax sound, folk, R&B, computer tech, etc., etc. You know? Rather, I think Neil would probably say that at various times he has been overtaken by different musical forms, inspired by them, and prodded on (by muse, or whatever) to express himself a certain way.

I think he would also say that by wearing new hats, and experimenting around with things, he has kept himself renewed, refreshed, and spoiling for what comes next. Can't predict what it will ever be, but like as not it will be compelling, because the fire has been stoked again to the point where something new can come from it. I think he will always return to his base mode- the albums I love that mix in r&b/country rock with acoustic, but I also think that he is at another career crossroads, this one once again dictated by things beyond his control.

One of his main musical foundations, and personal touchstone, Ben Keith, is gone- though unless I am mistaken, I think this project predated Ben's death. I just read a quote where Neil said that about 80% of his onstage song list has just been wiped out. Think about that for a moment. His hand has been forced, and I think this explains a lot about the direction this Lanois project took. Maybe Neil felt like he just didn't have a choice other than to put his songs into someone else's fresh approach. Or maybe this was just an opportune time to take advantage of a long held desire to work with Lanois. Here we are again speculating about why Neil ever does anything. And here I am again saying, I don't know and I don't care.

I think you have it right again ShittyHorse, this is less about sound and musical form, than it is about art, muse, and the youthful innocence to be open to experimentation. In short, it's about Neil being Neil. Can't wait to hear the album as a cohesive piece and vibe, but in the end, Neil being Neil is all I personally care about. That the music is always pleasing to me, as this album promises to be, is just icing on the cake.

A Friend Of Yours,
Greg M.

Thanks Greg, my friend.

More on Neil Young's New Album 'Le Noise'. Also, see:

- Producer Daniel Lanois Discusses Making of "Walk With Me" + UNCUT Review (UPDATED)
- Video of Neil Young's "Angry World" from Le Noise
- Neil Young's Le Noise: "Just a man on a stool"
- "Imagination never sleeps": Neil Young's Le Noise
- NPR Previews Neil Young's Le Noise's "Walk With Me"
- Dead Man Soundtrack: Preview of Le Noise?
- Anticipating Neil Young's album Le Noise

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At 9/20/2010 10:38:00 AM, Blogger kevin said...

i think the number he gave greg kot was 70%, but regardless it's neil's choice to play the songs or not. he certainly has NO PROBLEM playing all those songs he recorded with the HORSE with other bands, but i guess ben keith was on another level or something.

At 9/20/2010 11:40:00 AM, Blogger Matthew Lintzenich said...

I think Neil is feeling Keith's death really hard. That's probably why he said that, about the 70% of his material. I doubt the overall sincerity of the statement, only in that it's likely a comment made in the throes of mourning. Likely, as time goes on, his attitude will change.

That's what I think anyway. Just speculation, but when you look at his discography, Ben Keith is a constant, pervasive presence since the beginning. It's likely very hard to lose someone who has been a strong component of your music for that long, and that intensely, and consider touring and playing all that material.

I hope Neil brings the Horse out of retirement for another go, personally. That sounds like therapy to me. But you never know what he's going to do.

As for Le Noise, I am having a heck of a time with this one. It's so different. The only thing I can compare it to is Trans, in that it's so experimental and weird. At times it sounds like an experiment in literal one-man garage rock played in some kind of echo-chamber. The loops and delays permeate everything, and the songs are just awash in these 'sonics'.

One thing for certain is that the word 'sonics' has become a new favorite of rusties.

I like what Lanois is doing. I don't think it's "innovative" per se', but it's definitely playful and fun. I feel like the songs are at once held aloft by the 'sonics' and overwhelmed by them. Sometimes I think I'd like to hear them with a band, like, the Horse should play these tunes, they'd really rock them. But at other times I can just let go and get into the vibe of them.

I love Angry World, and I love Love and War. Both beautiful comments on society and the general state of things, and each set to either this fusion of delay-drenched psychedelia and garage-rock (Angry World) or big, open-prairie style acoustic strumming that Lanois just paints the sky with.

Beautiful stuff. Strange electric production that might suffer in the end from a lack of percussion, I think - but who am I to criticize?

Mostly I love Neil's lyrical style of late. You know, the part that everyone keeps complaining about.

Neil has become a master of making complex statements about things using very simple statements.

What fascinates me is that this is the same artist who, 30 years ago, was using complex, psychedelic imagery to describe very simple feelings, and wrapping things in abstractions.

In true Neil Young fashion, he has managed to become the opposite kind of poet than he was originally.

Whereas young Neil can be described with references to poets like T.S. Eliot or John Keats, this more reflective, older Neil more reflects the style of William Carlos Williams, who mastered the art of simplicity with his poems "The Red Wheelbarrow," and "This is Just to Say," also in his later years.

The Red Wheelbarrow in particular, I think, is a good comparison point when one considers the overt simplicity of a song like Angry World.

It's a small and seemingly inocuous poem, but when you start thinking about what it means, it opens up into a world of complexity.

Simple lines like "No doubt everything will go as planned," in this song, are exactly that. A simply worded phrase that one could expound upon at great length - and that is the mark of a great poet.

So when people start getting down on Neil for his delvings into simplicity and apparently direct statements, I think they're generally missing the point of Neil as a poet, and what he's trying to convey in his simplicity. Deep, complicated thoughts about the world. While young Neil would have conveyed simple internal feelings using abstract imagery, also awesomely.

So, this is evolution. And in Neil's ever-entertaining way, it comes with experimentation, inversion and surprise.

I'm lovin' it.

At 9/20/2010 01:43:00 PM, Blogger Greg Mantho said...

Matthew, thanks for drawing out the distinction of poetic styles, and applying them to a matured, focused Neil who can better cut through all the emotions to the simple facts of a personal or collective condition, as opposed to a younger Neil who was forced to navigate through untrodden emotional territory in order to deduce things. In thinking about the lyrics from much of Neils latter work, I was starting to nibble around the edges of the distinction, but you got right to the core. I think this a great rejoinder to the criticism that the lyrics aren't "deep" enough anymore. Now if you could just help us out with a rejoinder to the criticism that the music isn't "melodic" enough anymore...

A Friend Of Yours

At 9/21/2010 06:05:00 PM, Blogger Judd said...

Neil doesn't reinvent himself. His magic is that he is in a continual process of self-discovery. The Vista and Muse are his guides...the music is his True North.

Some of his releases are brilliant. Some of them are shit. Some of them are brilliant pieces of shit. This is brilliant.

This is new Neil...actually, it is NOW Neil. He is never old, he is never new, he is just...NOW.

At 9/21/2010 06:07:00 PM, Blogger Judd said...

Neil doesn't reinvent himself. His magic is that he is in a continual process of self-discovery. The Vista and Muse are his guides...the music is his True North.

Some of his releases are brilliant. Some of them are shit. Some of them are brilliant pieces of shit. This is brilliant.

This is new Neil...actually, it is NOW Neil. He is never old, he is never new, he is just...NOW.

At 9/22/2010 06:09:00 AM, Blogger doc said...

Well,Judd that is a great way of puttin' it I suppose...This IS where Neil is at right now...and knowin' the unpredictibility of the great might not be where he's at next week!!!...but thats what makes him so innaresting!...never predictible hey!....lets see what happens when the wind changes!



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