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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Comment of the Moment: Le Noise's "Sonics"

The Neil Young Comment of the Moment is from Le Noise Video "Hitchhiker" by Matthew L.:
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.

Thanks Matt! We're lovin it too.

More commentary on Le Noise Video "Hitchhiker".


Le Noise by Neil Young
(Click to Zoom Cover)
Release Date: September 28, 2010

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

-Neil Young Interview on Le Noise: "It sounded like God"
- 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

FWIW, pre-orders for Le Noise by Neil Young are already ranked at #8 #5 on Bestseller listing.


At 9/22/2010 10:26:00 AM, Blogger Tweck9 said...

Thanks for the props Thrash. Yeah, Ben, sonics and simplicity.

Mostly I'm very interested in the whole phenomenon of peoples' reactions to Neil's poetry.

I wonder how William Carlos Williams' fans felt when he published poems like The Red Wheelbarrow and This is Just to Say, having previously written epic masterworks such as Paterson?

Did they complain that Williams had gotten lazy and wasn't trying hard enough, wasn't spending enough time on his poems... (I mean "next to the white chickens?" Really, that's a clunky and corny way to end a poem, isn't it?)... or did they immediately grasp the fundamental depth of his simple statements and set about unwrapping their implied complexities?

One wonders. And I also wonder, what is the difference between the lengthy career of a great poet, who deals primarily in words, and the career of a great songwriter who deals both in words and music?

Why would William Carlos Williams not only get a pass for his simpler writings, but become revered for them, while Neil is treated like a lazy old man for doing the same exact thing, writing equally profound statements on the complexities of life in an equally stripped down and simple way?

Or, is it that in the 1960's people had a better grasp of these concepts and were more patient and willing to read into simple things and pour over their implied meanings and ambiguities?

At 9/22/2010 10:37:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

You bet and right back at you Matt.

You know, I can't really say that I'm up on all my literature and poetry.

William Carlos Williams' The Red Wheelbarrow and This is Just to Say, Paterson & T.S. Elliot, we'll need to check out more closely.

I recall when Jarmusch's Dead Man came out we got into the whole William Blake poetry to help wrap our head around the film & soundtrack.

When Greendale came out we got into the whole Thornton Wilder "Our Town" book, too.

I guess the point is that if anything moves you out of your comfort zone to explore other art & places then that's a good thing.

And so is le Noise.

At 9/22/2010 02:33:00 PM, Blogger Tweck9 said...

"I guess the point is that if anything moves you out of your comfort zone to explore other art & places then that's a good thing."


One thing Neil excels at is moving people out of their comfort zone - whether it was with Tonight's the Night, Zuma, Trans, Everybody's Rockin', Old Ways, Greendale, Living With War, FITR, the list goes on and on...

And that is another mark of a great artist - someone who can push his or her listener to react. Be it surprise, anger, frustration, joy, melancholy - and Neil has done it all, and continues to.

This newest surprise... a simple prosaic emotional package wrapped in an elegant, stylistic wash of psychedelia... does that even to me.

And I don't normally get uncomfortable with Neil anymore. I'm pretty much ready for anything. In fact, this is the only release that has pushed me out of my very wide comfort zone since TTN and Trans.

So, this is art at it's most intense. Emotive, jarring, different. Beautiful and ugly, simple and complex... Love and War...

They think they live, simultaneously, in the age of darkness and the age of light - it says it right there in the lyrics.

The dichotomous nature of art and life reflecting each other. Breathtaking.


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