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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Review: Neil Young's "Le Noise"


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

It's been about six months since we first heard Neil Young's latest batch of new songs -- what would eventually become known as "the Le Noise tracks" -- performed live in Hanover, MA, Washington, DC and Milwaukee, WI.

What we saw and heard over those 3 concerts was truly transformative and transcendental. Others had similar reactions while many were struck with the bleak starkness of some of the 7 new songs being debuted.

Fast forward to this week's release of Le Noise and listeners are just now hearing the "sonics" which Producer Daniel Lanois has introduced in the post-production process. So naturally, for those of us lucky to have experienced the raw and stripped down Le Noise tracks performed live, it is quite an exhilarating experience to re-discover so quickly the song's treatments with Lanois' studio touches.

Much, much, much has been made of this collaboration between Young and Producer Lanois. While it seems clear that the partnership works on many levels -- as evidenced not only by the results which speak for itself -- one can not help but plainly sense the apparent comfort and palpable mutual respect on display in their numerous joint interviews.

So has Neil Young found his new David Briggs? Or is Lanois now Young's Rick Rubin with the magic touch? We shall see, but we're thinking more the latter than the former.

The other fascinating aspect of Le Noise is the reaction of critics who suddenly now are waxing rhapsodic in their reviews over the latest Neil Young release.

Twitter / Greg Kot

Reading some of the latest reviews, we find ourselves shaking our heads at critics (and even some "fair weather fans" too) for re-discovering Neil Young's unique charms and peculiar fondness for turning expectations on their heads. As if, lo and behold, Young has somehow re-emerged from the shadows of creativity and returned once again to form.

As if there had ever been a "form" before. (See chronology of Young's career ending moves for details.)

Our observation at this point on Le Noise is that it usually seems to take quite some time before a Neil Young album's significance emerges. Witness the recent re-appraisals of Greendale, Living With War and the much maligned Fork in the Road in the Young canon.

So we spin the black circle....

And other Neil fans?

From Isorski's Musings: CD Review - Neil Young - Le Noise:
Le Noise is a special Neil release unlike anything he has ever given us.

And as a guitar player who also loves raw tones, gritty production and 'real' playing, there is a lot to love. From the insane overdriven electric of Walk With Me to the gorgeous acoustic tone of Peaceful Valley Boulevard, Neil hits this one so far out of the park, the ball is the next county.

Neil Young and Daniel Lanois
Photo by Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

From Steve Hoffman Music Forum by Chief:

I'm listening to the full album for the first time right now.

I'd be surprised if Le Noise wasn't listed in many critics' year-end best of lists. It's that kind of album. It takes risks and sounds ugly (depending on one's perspective). I think this was the right album for Neil to make. He could have done something familiar, but he chose not to, and that's why he's still relevant.

That said, it's a challenging album simply because the sounds aren't friendly or inviting (like Harvest Moon or Ragged Glory for instance). The lack of traditional instrumentation will prevent it from gaining wide acceptance. Neil has put out other challenging albums of course. Some have ultimately rewarded over time, others haven't so much. I won't even dare to speculate where Le Noise will fall. I think Fork In The Road is challenging as well, and I also think it's really good.

Le Noise, however, is something entirely different.

From a comment on this blog by Dan:
Beyond the sonics which add richness and verve, the songs are excellent ... somehow I keep coming back to love and war which for me feels like an enduring classic ... originally I thought he'd put out a dark album to mourn the losses of LA and Ben, ... I've come around to thinking he's left that sadness off the album and instead, both on the album and in the interviews, is expressing, among other things, themes of resiliency and continuity, and within that he seems as vibrant, relevant, and fresh as he ever has. He also seems relaxed, at peace, and comfortable with himself and his scene.

Good stuff...

And how about those critics???

From Music Vice | Album review: Neil Young – Le Noise – "The anti-pop star creates his ultimate anti-pop record" by Brian Banks:
These days fewer and fewer artists seem to actually have something to say, and of those that do, not many are saying something worth hearing. Pop has never been so pop. But what do we do than when we, the all-consuming music-buying public, want to hear something tangible? Something personal.

Something that makes a statement – and no, not a fashion statement…we have plenty enough of that already. Something real. It’s a mission to find a contemporary artist whose music really has a voice and that thing called soul – there are some of course, but most of them are hiding away in obscurity and poverty, far removed from the sales charts. Leave it to the epitomist Neil Young to come along with a new album that delivers something that is both very real and very much worth listening to.

The anti-pop star has created his ultimate anti-pop record.

But wait. Who's ever heard of Music Vice and what does a blog's opinion matter anyway?

How about the elite professional music critics (as compiled by Metacritic)?


From Chicago Tribune:
The album is full of those kind of unexpected juxtapositions, a stunning statement from an artist who shows no signs of slowing down.

Los Angeles Times:
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.

Rolling Stone:
Le Noise is also the most intimate and natural-sounding album Young has made in a long time: just a songwriter making his way through a vividly rendered chaos of memoir, affection and fear.

Boston Globe:
It builds a rich sonic arch around Young's voice and guitar, bottling the essence of what makes him such a compelling singer-songwriter at 64.

The Guardian:
Le Noise demands more effort than some listeners might be willing to put in, but at its best, it repays that effort pretty handsomely. In that sense at least, it pretty much sums up Neil Young's entire career.

(See Le Noise Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More at Metacritic for all links above. Also, see - Neil Young links for more capsule reviews).

Illustration by Tim O'Brien - Rolling Stone Magazine

From Rolling Stone Music | Music Reviews by David Fricke:
But the most personal thing about Le Noise is the sense of a restless master caught in the pursuit of ideas, shaping their expression. 'Peaceful Valley Boulevard,' one of two acoustic-guitar songs, is a detailed American history lesson from Indian wars to electric cars. Yet in one line ('A mother screamed, and every soul was lost'), Young's voice cracks on the peak note — an impulsive, moving flaw.

And in 'Love and War,' Young — his creaky whisper and acoustic guitar buoyed by Lanois' watery treatments — confesses an uncertainty hard to believe in one of rock's most driven stars: 'When I sing about love and war/I don't really know what I'm saying.' But then the conviction comes back. He only has that one way forward, through the music: 'I sang in anger, hit another bad chord/But I still try to sing about love and war.' Le Noise is, ultimately, an extreme simplicity: the sound of a man who won't give up.

Producer Daniel Lanois, on making of the track "Walk With Me"

From BBC - Music - Review of Neil Young - Le Noise by Wyndham Wallace:
It’s not an easy listen, obviously, but acclimatisation to the unfamiliar, monochromatic sound of such raw electric guitar brings with it the ability to recognise that Young’s songwriting skills haven’t dulled with age. Examined as a part of his overall body of work, furthermore, it’s amongst the more fascinating left turns he’s made, and once again confirms the evergreen restlessness of this gnarly and frequently inspiring Canadian.

Once again, he’s not let us down.

And the bloggers?

From Consequence of Sound by By Evan Minsker:
In a way, Le Noise should feel like a cheap attempt to reach out to young people.

The album was promoted on Facebook, Young debuted videos on Pitchfork and Stereogum, and the record is being released as an iPad and iPhone app. It sounds like a cheap marketing ploy. Apps? Social media? Hip music sites? He’s a Twitter account away from covering all the buzzword bases. But, in reality, this is one of Young’s best albums in years, so the Internet-wide promotion is well worth the effort. With just a guitar and some fine studio work by Lanois, the soundscape here is huge and mystifying.

Not since he first recorded “Cortez the Killer” has a Young album been so full of mystique.

From PopMatters by David Gassmann :
But then comes “Hitchhiker”, and it’s incredible.

It’s as nakedly personal as anything Young has written since the Ditch Trilogy. The first several verses are straight autobiography, a laundry list of drugs, infidelities, and other transgressions. About four minutes in, it takes a turn for the surreal: “I thought I was an Aztec / Or a runner in Peru.” Young has previously said that his songs often don’t have literal meanings, so much as connotative meanings arising from words and dreamlike images. But coming after verses with such clear autobiographical content, and relying on such well-worn Young tropes as time travel and indigenous peoples, it’s hard not to see this as some sort of commentary on Young’s songwriting, perhaps as a vehicle for escape. After that verse, the song ends abruptly on a more direct and sobering note:

I tried to leave my past behind
But it’s catching up with me …
I don’t know how I’m standing here
Living in my life
I’m thankful for my children
And my faithful wife

The juxtaposition of the Incan fantasy and this conclusion seems to present an intriguing dilemma: disappear into art and fiction (and drugs), or take a chance on real-world redemption, which carries with it the inescapable fact of past mistakes? “Hitchhiker” also casts some previous songs in a new light, perhaps revealing the source of some of the frustration in “Angry World”, and amplifying the reflective tone of “Love and War”. In short, it’s exactly the sort of song you’d hope to hear from an elder statesman of rock and roll: mature, with wisdom and perspective, but still vital and rebellious.

Producer Daniel Lanois
Photo by Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

And of course not all are impressed by Young's latest.

From The A.V. Club by Steven Hyden:
Neil Young’s bulletproof status as the other ’60s rock icon you can still depend on—take a bow, Bob Dylan—has become increasingly reliant on albums boasting catchier concepts than songwriting. It’s easy to praise Young for getting fired up about the environment (Greendale), the war in Iraq (Living With War), and electric cars (Fork In The Road), but when it comes to songs, he’s been penning iffy lyrics and recycling the same by-the-numbers guitar-rumble for years. Young’s cultural engagement makes him impervious to charges of coasting, but with Le Noise, he’s once again made an album that sounds better on paper than through speakers.

But to wrap things up quietly on Le Noise (incidentally the albums name is a pun on the producer's last name which we'd be re-miss to point out since every review does as well), from Culture Belly by Chris DeLine:
Young, yourself, all of us: who knows how long any of us are meant for this world?

In all honesty, we’re all just a fluke aneurysm away from calling it a day. I can’t speak for the man, but I imagine that Neil Young doesn’t want to die—I know that I most certainly don’t want to die—and it’s my hope that you don’t want to die. And if there’s one thing that I know I can rely on while I’m still on this side of the grave it’s the perspective I gained in part from “Ordinary People”. This is why I think the song is important when thinking about Le Noise: Even if you’re riding a series of thoughts and emotions that touch on the darkest parts of the human experience, you have to do your damnedest to keep that positive outlook and sense of humanity in mind, and remind yourself of what exactly it is you’re still thankful for.

Like Young, if you have children and a wife, I hope you’re thankful for them. If you have a husband, I hope you’re thankful for him. If you have parents or friends or siblings or an annoying little bijon shih tzu that refuses to stop barking at all hours of the morning: I hope you’re thankful for each and every one of ‘em. That’s what I’m taking away from Le Noise.

Neil Young and Producer Daniel Lanois with Le Noise crew

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

- Critics Go GaGa Over New Neil Young Album Le Noise
- Comment of the Moment: Le Noise
- "Walk With Me": New Video by Neil Young
- Neil Young's Le Noise "Weaving sonic tapestries"
- CBC Interview With Neil Young and Daniel Lanois
- Vinyl Review of Le Noise: TONEAudio MAGAZINE
- NEW LE NOISE VIDEO: Neil Young's "Love And War" on YouTube
-Le Noise: "It's a keeper" Tweets Critic Greg Kot
-Neil Young and Daniel Lanois click on 'Le Noise' -
-NEW LE NOISE VIDEO: "Hitchhiker"
-Comment of the Moment: Le Noise's "Sonics"
-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
-Stream Neil Young's Entire Album Le Noise on NPR

Also, see all of Neil Young's Solo Electric Concert Tour Dates and Reviews.

And, FWIW, Le Noise by Neil Young is ranked at #3 #2 on Bestseller listing.

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At 10/01/2010 10:02:00 AM, Blogger Old Black said...

I've been living with Le Noise for a few days now. I becoming convinced that Love and War is one of Neil Young's greatest songs. When he played it live on the recent tour, I was blown away. Even more so now. And it's the song with the least production effects. It's just an incredible combination of lyric, feeling, honesty, craftsmanship, and terrific acoustic guitar playing - maybe the best I've ever heard from him.

The line, "I sang for justice but I hit a bad chord, but I still sing about Love and War" is haunting.

At 10/01/2010 10:57:00 AM, Blogger David said...

What a great album.

On my first listen I was intrigued, more than anything; I've avoided all YouTube videos etc. of the new songs, so it was all new to me.

After a few more spins, I have to say I love it. Particularly like Peaceful Valley Boulevard, it's up there with my favourite Neil songs.

I've been moved emotionally at quite a few points in the album, I have to admit.

And it's even more moving to see all this praise for Neil. He is the man, there's no denying it. Never gave up on his own vision once, and he's still going strong.

Puts other artists these days to shame, in terms of energy and passion. I know it's as cliched as it can get, but Long May He Run.

Le Noise is my album of 2010, and I can only hope the Twisted Road leads the Le Noise tour over to the UK in 2011.

And thanks again for going on with the Wheat, Thrasher, and bringing us all together. Without this site, Neil's fans would be nowhere!

Now for another listen... Bring on Le Noise!


At 10/01/2010 12:14:00 PM, Blogger SONY said...

Got Le Noise in the mail yesterday. What a great album. I'd seen the show and watched the videos but putting that little round disc on and running through the songs in order was a distinct pleasure. He's like your bestest of friends where you continue to learn and grow as you get together. Makes you comforatable being in the room with him.

I didn't think the'sonics' overwhelmed anything or got in the way at all. Actually, live in the theatre they came through even more, reverberated right through my bones. This compilation reminds me of some heavy Crazy Horse and it's a gas how just him solo and produced up fills the space.

At 10/01/2010 01:16:00 PM, Blogger Matthew Lintzenich said...

I guess it takes something truly outlandish and experimental to get the critics to come around these days.

I mean, yes, it's emotionally affecting, great songwriting, great material, etc. etc.

Personally, I love it on every level. It blows my mind every time I put the disc on, in a way that nothing Neil has done since Sleeps with Angels has. In fact, it may be better than SWA, but I don't want to go overboard quite yet. It's still too early to fit it into a top-10 list (though I'm certain it's going to break my top 10 quite easily when all is said and done)

But Greendale and Fork have great material on them too. So does Living with War.

Could it be in the production? The critics just don't like garage rock anymore, but they love this unhinged, psychedelic, dychotomous, self-consuming insanity???

Well, I'm glad they do, and I certainly hope the general public comes around too, because it'll be great to see this one shoot through the pop-culture consciousness like the rocket of unbridled creative energy that it is.

At 10/01/2010 03:21:00 PM, Blogger David said...

I've listened to this album a couple dozen times now in the last week. Sometimes more focused, sometimes passively.

Stand out tracks:
Walk With Me
Angry World

Walk With Me is definitely "new" Neil - in the style of No Hidden Path, Spirit Road, and others that have more recently come to define his electric personality and lyrical style. It definitely stands up on its own better than either of those tunes, though. It's a strong opening to a strong record.

Angry World is very different, the ad-lib electric guitar combined with a lot of brute power chord descents are not Neil as we have ever heard him. I like it, because we also get some of that trademark guitar improvisation between the verses. The distortion and effects provided by Lanois on this song are superb, and really add to the song in a huge way - they make you feel. This is probably the single strongest song on Le Noise, the chaos and distortion swirling around Neil's piercing voice compel you to listen closely.

Hitchhiker is a great trunk song, and this is a great recording of it. It's bare and ragged, an uncut autobiographical look into Neil's life as he saw it happening. I was truly grateful when I saw this performed live on the Twisted Road tour.

Finally, Rumblin' closes the album with arguably the darkest tune of the record, underdeveloped as it may be. The distortion provided by Lanois again, especially on the introduction, submerge the listener in a serenity that quickly breaks into the deep growl of Neil's Gretsch. But on this tune, it's more subdued and distant, and you're left feeling a little lost in the starkness of it all.

Sign Of Love and Someone's Gonna Rescue You are forgettable. Love And War's often cheesy and cliche lyrics drag down what is obviously a very emotional song; it's good, but not great.

Peaceful Valley Boulevard lulls long-time Neil fans in the style of songs like "Natural Beauty" and "Sixty To Zero", storytelling epics with little mass appeal. Such songs are hit and miss (hits: see "Words", "Ambulance Blues" or "Ordinary People"), and Peaceful Valley Blvd is a miss. Very interesting guitar work, but 10 verses aren't better than 3 - there's just more of them. I like the song, but I don't see why anyone would look at this as something to remember once Le Noise goes into the annals of Neil history.

As I said previously, Le Noise is a good Neil album, and the best thing he's done since Prairie Wind (which I evaluate as severely underrated). #3 for things he's done this decade, #2 if you consider Silver & Gold to be very-late 90's.

At 10/01/2010 04:48:00 PM, Blogger Thos said...

Nicely balanced summary Thrasher.

It is nice to see that the critics can see how good this record is, and that this can be indipendently verified by Compare 80/100 for the new realease to the 61/100 that Fork in the Road got.

Quite right, since those songs weren't as good as the ones on Le Noise ;-)

Cheers, Thos.

At 10/01/2010 08:21:00 PM, Blogger Curt said...

Since it's release on Tuesday, I've listened to it all day every day. I was at the DC show earlier this year and walking out of it, i was floored by the new songs. They were amazing, and now hearing them on Le Noise has been even more rewarding. At work, Ive had it been playing non-stop and I've been recommending it to my customers (even though i manage a hat store). This album makes me excited to be a Neil fan and listening to this makes me feel like a brand new fan again. I could ramble on and on, but simply put this is my favorite Neil album.

At 10/02/2010 01:05:00 AM, Blogger ShittyHorse said...

Let’s face it, Neil has made THAT album. The one people bitched that hadn’t come out, the album people hoped for, the one people said they knew he could still make.
There has been a lot said about Neil albums since Silver and Gold- "he's lost it", "obvious lyrics"(?),"not on par", "I expect more from Neil", etc. I won’t deny people their opinions, but I believe that Neil has evolved in his age. I don't think he needs to be this mystery guy he was, writing gorgeously vague, poetic lyrics. Neil writes what comes to him, what’s obviously on his mind in a way that has the appeal of a great novel- you know what’s happening but its open enough for you let your mind’s eye see your visions and apply your own experiences and faces, (which takes more talent than writing lyrics that leave people scratching their heads, not matter how much they like it) and still there is just the right touch of mystery to everything he does. In a way Neil Young is more accessible than he ever was, in his work (his lyrics are outwardly simpler- yet still have the depth of a great poet) and his life- as active as he is, it’s inevitable. Still he’s retained that edgy, soulfulness that we’ve always loved and admired. Yeah, Neil has definitely evolved.
What I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE about Le Noise is that Neil hasn't changed direction from what he was doing earlier- I hear Fork in The Road on Le Noise, which everyone panned, I hear Are You Passionate, and Greendale. Somehow Neil kept going down that same road that people complained about, yet made the fantastic album everyone hoped for and almost everyone, including the critics, love. This is not just the result of Lanois' work either. Neil's seasoned writing style seems to have culminated on Le Noise- add that to the rich, simple yet wide and panoramic sound and you have a winner. Of course there is more to this record than meets the eye, or the first few listens. Le Noise is a great album, from that first, punch in the face, opening chord on Walk With Me, to the final echo of Rumblin, the record has you, and its over so fast it seems like hearing one song rather than a whole album, which is a testament to its cohesiveness and flow.
Neil has proved with Le Noise that he never went anywhere and he knows what he’s doing.

At 10/02/2010 09:08:00 AM, Blogger doc said...

Well shitty, old black,that about sums it up for me too!... just nicely, thank you!

Even his staunchest critics will have to concede..that with the combination of Neil's little production visually, and the 'sonically' driven input from Lanois , "Le Noise" is more than just a 'noise' for Neil....and even though Neil is adamant that there is only one autobiographical song in Hitchiker,I really do think the whole album is a reflection of his life and those experiences layed out in song.

In my eyes,it really does represent a summation of his stance on certain issues he has always championed, his honesty and openness, his frank admission of guilt and proclamation in the song 'hitchiker' of his relationships and misgivings,
his invitation to join him on life's journey in 'walk with me' to his fear of Earth's impending demise on 'Rumblin'.

Yeah, this is the complete package
and although I initially felt some songs were "overworked" with Daniel's interpretation, once I watched Le Noise in its entirety and listened to it repetitively on my car CD, I can now see what Neil has set out to achieve.....and I am really loving this achievement!


At 10/02/2010 12:38:00 PM, Blogger sugarmtn said...

I'm just can't jump on the bandwagon that Le Noise is a 5 star record. I think the record has several very good songs - Peaceful Valley, Love and War, Hitchhiker and a sleeper for me, Someone's Gonna You. But for this listener the other songs are medium low quality at best. I find Angry World and Sign of Love nearly unlistenable for different reasons. Sign of Love has a guitar searching for something interesting to play and on Angry World the lyrics and phrasing are just too awkward for me to work past. Across the record many of the lyrics, even on the best songs, border on banal.

Outside of the overuse of echo on some of the vocals (Hitchhiker suffers the most), the Lanois treatments are constructive and interesting. I like the clever use of directing different amplifiers to different channels making Neil appear to be several guitarists at one time.

I give Neil top points for creating a new record with a unique new sound, but I think this record with it's mixture of strong and weak songs is of similar quality to the bulk of his recorded work from the past 10 years.

At 10/02/2010 05:23:00 PM, Blogger doc said...

Sugarmountain,appreciate your viewpoint..but please give it some heavy rotation, before judging the album in its entirety.

Banal lyrics? all Neil's songs have to be poetically sublime to get the message out?

Sometimes I feel his most "inane" and "simplistic' lyrics are the ones I can relate cryptic, subliminal meaning here...just Neil tellin' it how it is in black and white.
Well it might not win any purlitzer price for poetic lyrical content in your eyes..but ya don't have to be a rocket scientist to decipher what message Neil is puttin' out.

just my opinion


At 10/02/2010 11:27:00 PM, Blogger sugarmtn said...


I've listened to this record a dozen plus times. I'm sure at least as many times as those who reviewed this album positively. And I think I understand what Neil is trying to communicate as much as the next guy. It's just that half of the songs just don't work for me so it's hard to give this record a glowing review. It's the lyrics as I mentioned but it's other things too. I suppose I could break it down element by element, but that takes all of the fun out of it. You listen to a song or a record a bunch of times and you just decide whether you like it or not. It's pretty simple, but we all come to different conclusions. Maybe a year from now I will think differently, but I doubt it. More likely I will be be listening to Neil's next effort which I am sure will be very different than this.

Just my opinion too.

Keep on Rockin'

At 10/03/2010 01:12:00 AM, Blogger Matthew Lintzenich said...

sugarmtn - I agree, Someone's gonna rescue you - it's a sleeper for me as well. Really creeps up on you. I'm liking it a lot.

I also get your POV (though I disagree, at least in my excited state I'm hearing the best thing he's done all decade).

But you do make some valid points. Some people aren't into the 'banal' lyrical style Neil's adopted (well, he's been developing it for 30+ years really).

I'm of the other mind, obviously. Particularly with regard to Angry World, which I'm beginning to see as the nexus of the album.

First, I love this tact of using the banal to describe the sublime and mysterious. Because it is a great complex emotionality that he's describing in Angry World, in such a precise, yet cryptically banal fashion, very simply stating the complex, creating a massive subtext by raising these juxtaposed questions through simple assertions.

He examines 4 different, almost random selections of generalized world-views that people have.

He assembles a cast of characters - the lonely and hurt, the angry and stubborn, the optimistic and the cynical, likely in the context of a single person as much as it is four.

He then examines their collective vision of reality, that they're simultaneously optimistic and pessimistic. They live in the age of darkness and of light - it's an age of extreme energies pulling against each other. There's really nothing contradictory about the two statements:

They think they live in the age of darkness

They think they live in the age of light

They very clearly show how we work against ourselves, and how it is our own thinking it is what it is that causes it. We push into love and pull back into fear. We push forward progressive agendas and new ideas, and make war and pull back against progress. It's a conflicted state that the whole world is embroiled in, currently more extreme than it has been in a long time. Things are changing for the better and the worse at the same time, and it's all in our heads as much as it is happening.

Then come the hells inferno / freedom land lines, which I agree are a little unwieldly sounding.

But let's examine it. It's an appearance of religion on one hand, a recurring theme that pops up in numerous places on the album; but on the other hand a metaphor for the way people view each other (contextually, when viewed against the rest of the lyrics to the song). We see people as failures and wish bad things on them. We are also afraid that we might be wrong, and everything might fail. We all think we're right and that everyone else is going to Hell. See, I get a lot out of these two lines, even if they are a bit awkward in their phrasing.

But anyway, on to the contextual statements that at once acknowledge current events and the continuing state of things in consistent conflict - again, at once meant literally and metaphorically, it's an angry world for both the business man and the fisher man.

They are butting heads in reality, but metaphorically they are all of us fighting with each other on large and small levels. It's every conflict we perceive - it's the corporations vs. the people, it's people vs. people, government vs. people, government vs. corporations, all of us against nature, everything against everything in a giant swirling fit of anger.

Because it's an angry world.

At 10/03/2010 01:12:00 AM, Blogger Matthew Lintzenich said...


IN FACT, the simple nature of the lyrics contrasted against the complex underlying meaning of the song itself reflect the WHOLE THEME OF THE ALBUM AS A WHOLE, which is a study in contrast and conflicts. All this juxtaposed conflict and contradiction, all humming along harmoniously and chaotically at once. Violent and caressing.

And each song interconnects thematically too.

Angry World representing the angry apex of the album, while Hitchhiker is his own personal struggle with fear in every revolution of his life, running away through drugs, sometimes finding bad things, sometimes finding good things, but in the end an unlikely survivor, all in the unstated context of the first 10 years of his musical career.

Then Peaceful Valley takes the concept of Pocahontas and blows it up into a sprawling painting, again contrasting the two time-frames, one of the beginning of America and the violence that it spawned through, and now, and how they reflect each other.

This time he even reverses the scenario of the original. In Pocahontas it's the American Indians getting slaughtered, while in PVB it's the English settlers getting slaughtered. Which creates a contradiction (or harmony even) that stretches all the way back to Rust Never Sleeps for the love of God.

And all this is what creates the rumblin' Neil hears in the ground. The rumblin' of some inexplicable change comin'. It can't be seen yet, but it can be felt, and it's big.

At 10/03/2010 01:18:00 AM, Blogger Matthew Lintzenich said...


At 10/03/2010 03:31:00 AM, Blogger doc said...

Shit Matty your starting to get REAL deep here! lol

Like Neil's "simplistic" lyrics..stick to simplistic evaluations..just kidding Matt!

Always enjoy your in depth posts.
There are certainly many wheaties here who could easily get jobs as head reviewers on rolling stone of anything Neil..suppose its easy to write positively when we are so passionate about our subject matter hey?


At 10/03/2010 03:41:00 AM, Blogger andrea1bianco said...

I agree with Sugarmountain. There' re 3 great songs(LAW, PVB,Hitchhiker), one very good(Someone's Gonna Rescue You), the rest is under medium. I acknowledge that this record has the general appreciation of fans and critics. So I'm really into the minority.Thrasher has a good point too on remembering that also the last production has the same good level.
This record is considered a great record. In my opinion it's in the tradition of experimental albums as Trans and LOW. Trans had the fascination for vocoder and the electro music,LOW that big, big beat. Anyway, both had songs with good melodies and for sure, Trans is an underrated album in the Neil history. Here there's the sound of these modified guitars(Larry could't manage them anymore)and the DL sonics.
Strange that Neil has called Lanois for "recording and filming ten acoustic songs", probably not his speciality.I'd had thought instead to some names from the Indie scene for this kind of productions.Steve Albini is great for exemple. Listen to the stark production of the guitar and to the naked musical landscapes on the Songs Ohia album"It didn't rain". This is a great way of recording a man on his stool.

Andrea."So Tired"

At 10/03/2010 06:51:00 AM, Blogger andrea1bianco said...

Wow, what coincidence!Yesterday, I listened to Didn't it Rain by Songs Ohia, Trans and LOW for my little comment on La Noise. After my reference to Didn't it Rain, I've soon discovered that another reviewer seriously compared Le Noise to Didn't It Rain. Here's the link

Andrea."So Tired"

At 10/03/2010 07:44:00 AM, Blogger SONY said...

You can take it as a Sign of Love, when I'm looking at you.

I'm not seeing how people are missing this one. This is a rocker with excellent guitar (what else?!) good hook and subtle but deep lyrics. I'm hearing the roses on the vine here.

It's my favorite on the album. If'n you're not getting it, I'm thinking you're SOL

At 10/04/2010 10:19:00 AM, Blogger Matthew Lintzenich said...

Andrea, I thought Songs:Ohia was a stripped down, acoustic project? I haven't heard anything from them in a long time... last I'd heard they'd morphed into Magnolia Electric Company (who is also awesome, but not quite as moody and captivating as songs:ohia in my book).

I really think that, yes, there are 3 or 4 great stand alone songs on Le Noise. But the rest are parts of the whole, like a transformer, or an interlocking machine-thing that is one big song/performance piece.

If you ever listen to Pavement, (I recommend "Crooked Rain Crooked Rain" if you want to be amazed) you'll note that they have these songs that start, get into this songy groove and then suddenly fall apart about half way through and grind to a halt, then almost transition into the next song as if it's all one song. It's deliberate with them, obviously, and I think particularly noticeable on the first two tracks of Le Noise, that kind of thing is at play.

Yeah, sorry for my long, ridiculous rant. I could be building mountainous constructions that weren't intended, just imagining things... but then again, it could be as intertwined and huge as I imagine... I dunno...! lol

At 10/05/2010 12:18:00 AM, Blogger ShittyHorse said...

I hate to bring any attention to this review, but I felt it so ridiculous, so out of touch that I wonder if this guy really listened the the record at all? He obviously knows NOTHING about Neil.
One line is: "A particularly embarrassing track is “Hitchhiker,” which takes us through a history of Young’s struggles with drugs, alcohol and other social issues. It’s not really a song as much as it is a story about his life. It doesn’t get intimate and it never really seems serious enough to show that he is regretful for what he has done." WHAT????

check it out, but I warn you- its moronic at best:

As for me, I know I've said a lot but I keep listening and I must say this album just brings me deeper and deeper with each spin. I think its fantastic and I cant help but feel that Neil fans who hate it either haven't given it a chance, would rather continue with their stubborn conviction that Neil is "washed up" rather admit he put out something great, or they just don't really like Neil at all. I'm much more partial to Neil's darker stuff and I think this album is dark- this is 2:00am music. Black and white is perfect for this whole project- as dark as it is you can still see a little sparkle of light dancing on the distant horizon. Its reflective & brooding-the music makes me imagine the view from the windshield of a fast car flying down a near empty highway in the middle of the night, as street lamps rush past. Christ, the whole vibe of this music is so haunting, trance like. Lanois' effects at first, seem so strong- almost overpowering, which is perhaps the shock-factor then, as you listen more, you see they don't over power at all- they totally add to it, the song & the sonics become one breathtaking thing. I love this record.... by far my favorite of the last decade- perhaps since Broken Arrow- which I'll always have a soft-spot for. If your on the fence or think you don't like it- I urge you to keep listening. Blow away your expectations- forget the last 45 years and just listen- Neil has truly made a great one.

At 10/05/2010 05:13:00 AM, Blogger doc said...

Ya know Shitty the video accompanying it as viewed on youtube only enhances my growing appreciation of this album.

Granted there are a couple of tracks where some might feel lanois's slant or imput might be overdone..but like you say, with every rotation, my love grows stronger..geez that's not a bad Neil Lyric if I don't say so myself! lol

luvin it! doc

At 10/05/2010 08:10:00 AM, Blogger Jill said...

Matt, you have nothing to apologise for! Your enthusiasm and deep analysis of Le Noise blows me away, please don`t stop! There is always room here for intelligent and well thought-out comment, and take no notice of doc, it`s just his `sense of humour`, (no offense doc).

Same goes to you Shitty, and I`m not even going to read that moronic interview, my bloods boiling already!

At 10/05/2010 09:12:00 AM, Blogger doc said...

Shit, is that what you call it Jill!
I think others would beg to differ! lol(my so called sense of humour that is grossly misunderstood sometimes I'm afraid,(must be just an Aussie thing!lol)

Seriously, I enjoy EVERYONE'S views and opinions ,always have, but what happened to some of the "Regulars" after the "Rebellion"?... like Mr Henry,Pinto, MNOTR? and my favourite
Johnathon?(who painted me in such a glowing,favourable boring light? lol

just wonderin' doc

At 10/05/2010 09:21:00 AM, Blogger Matthew Lintzenich said...

Thanks Jill - a BOOK could be written about this album, I'm certain of it!

And I love doc. He's one of my favorite posters here.

@Doc - yeah, what happened to those people? Maybe they decided to split off and start their own exclusive side-blog. Heh heh


At 10/05/2010 10:08:00 AM, Blogger doc said...

shit matty..i thinks i'm gunna cry! I HAVE got friends here?

relieved doc

At 10/05/2010 01:03:00 PM, Blogger Matthew Lintzenich said...

Shittyhorse, I'm still waiting to hear what that idiot Rob Harvilla from the Village Voice has to say about Le Noise. he's been quiet regarding Neil ever since he got the verbal BEAT DOWN for his unfair and untruthful criticism of Neil's Madison Square Garded concert where he played songs off FITR back in '08. They had to shut down the comments on the article because of the butt-kicking he was getting for his pompous attitude and audacity to make up completely untrue b.s. about the show.

Obviously, I still harbor a grudge.

Why, of course, doc! You've always got a friend in me. I'll walk with you any day of the week.

In fact, I love alls'ya'lls on this thread, whether we agree or not. A bunch of great people, I gotta say.


At 10/05/2010 02:31:00 PM, Blogger Jill said...

That`s good then you guys - cool!

@ doc, you know I`d miss you if you were gone!

@ Matt, yes, I agree! About the book that is, and about the great bunch of people here!

And yes, what did happen to all those people......?

At 10/12/2010 04:02:00 PM, Blogger D.I. Kertis said...

The first time I heard an excerpt of the Walk with Me, I got chills. It sounded like something Neil could have recorded in 1975. I was reminded of Danger Bird. It was that really heavy, really intense rocking sound we haven't had from Neil in a while.

This is an album just exploding with all kinds of passionate feelings. I especially feel ' Rescue You', as Neil tries to see reassurance amid all the crap life can throw at you, : "No one can do the things you do. Someone can save you... Someone's gonna rescue you, before you fall."

I really hope Neil's right about that.

Then there's 'Angry World', layered with its Trans-like vocal distortions. There was debate earlier on as to the words were being looped during the opening and closing fades. I get: "We hate", repeated ad nauseam, overlaid with the occasional plea for "love, love." Again, we have great lyrics here. I especially like the reflections on differently philosophies of life--great food for thought. And it really captures the chaotic and anguished state of a world in which everyone is trying to survive, the real tragedy being that their interests clash in spite of their common ultimate goal, as observed with the line "For the businessman and the fisherman." The fisherman I posit is meant to represent the world view that focuses on "hope eternal", since that's pretty what you have to feel with the decidedly in exact science of putting some bait on your line and lowering it out of sight into the water.

At 10/12/2010 04:03:00 PM, Blogger D.I. Kertis said...

‘Peaceful Valley Boulevard' seems almost a like a more focused, coherent 'Last Trip to Tulsa.' It induces a similar dreamlike state and delivers some even more beautiful images. Other than that, I don't want to say too much about it. I think it just has to be heard, and I think it's remarkable how the bleakness of the modern world is balanced with Neil's indomitable hope.
"Love and War", I'm appreciating more and more. Neil has sung about this subject matter before--as is actually kind of the point of the song--but he's never framed it personally before. What starts as an artist's reflection on his pet themes becomes one on his entire career. I especially admire the bold admission by Neil of his lack of firsthand experience with war. That's something he's never really confronted before, and it's been used as ammunition to question his credentials to opine on the subject, but here he acknowledges and even embraces the caveat like the human being he's always been.

Even just trying to sing about love and war, no matter how many bad chords you hit, is a lot more than some people have done. And I positively love Neil's acoustic acoustic playing here--beautiful, sensitive, totally fitting to the aesthetic and subject matter, and absolutely needing to be heard by all fans. 'Love and War' may be the best song on here. It's a brilliant combination of musical craftsmanship and honest self-expression. Isn't that exactly what we love Neil for?

As an aside, this is also Neil's best album cover in a while, with him standing under the arch at Lanois' incredibly cool looking house and the title printed in raised silver lettering--perfect font, too. Then there's the beautiful insert with the lyrics--really love the aesthetic Neil was going for there. I think it's a wonderful piece of art in itself, not to mention convenient if you want to get a look at the words to a song in case you missed something. It's right there, with only a quick unfolding and maybe a moment to turn the page over.

So, yeah, the fact that I'm expounding on the virtues of the lyric insert probably speaks for my enthusiasm about this album for itself. The lyrics, the music, the sound, the visuals used on the cover--all of this transports me to a genuinely otherworldly, yet familiar and comfortable, zone at times.
And no, I don't really care it's only 37 minutes long. I did think at first that eight songs wasn't a whole lot, even if some were seven minutes long, but I think the album definitely work with its current length and structure. Why some people have made such a big deal about the time length, I don't know. After the Goldrush and Harvest were about 35 minutes, too. Are they any the worse for it? Should Neil fill have his next CD with a continuous loop of all the toilets at the ranch flushing in sequence, just so every second of space is used?

... I think I'll stop there before I start ranting. In spite of my curmudgeonliness, this is a pretty great album. If I listen to it for a long, long time, it's a sign of love.


(It's good to be back, btw.)

At 10/12/2010 04:06:00 PM, Blogger D.I. Kertis said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 10/17/2010 11:50:00 PM, Blogger Dan said...

I did up a video review for Le Noise, don't know if it's of any relevance anymore, but I thought I'd share the link for anyone interested.

Man I love this LP, it's honestly one of his all-time best albums.

At 10/18/2010 01:12:00 AM, Blogger Dan1 said...

I keep listening to the album and it keeps getting better and better ... I'm already blown away by the one-two punch of Lintzenich and SH's analyses, so what's left to say?

After a bunch of spins the album feels very cohesive, like one long production weaving a narrative with multiple threads - one that accutely describes the times, another the evolution of American History and another detailing Neil's 40+ year journey of being a musical artist, activist, rock star, and family man ... the sonics reverberate, recoil, return, and echo ... just as the themes of the album, expressed through the music and songs, come in and out -- Walk with Me opens and Neil's sitting alone in an old mansion, continuing his long journey, shreddin notes all by himself because he's lost so many friends along the way, and because of it he expresses his vulnerabilities and fears, and perhaps some sadness:

"If you just walk with me and let me walk with you
I'm on this journey I don't wanna walk alone"

Is he talking to Pegi, his hard core fans, the muse? All of the above?

Sign of Love returns to the theme of longevity and the realization that the journey won't last forever:

"When we both have silver hair,
And a little less time,
But there still are roses on the vine"

But the essence of the song is optimistic and loving ...

Someone's gonna rescue you goes quickly to a dark place:

"Somewhere in the ray of sunshine
you find the dark"

"Someone's gonna rescue you
Before you fall"

But the song takes the album outside of Neil and his inner world ... the song expresses the angst of the times, the uncertainty, the fear of falling away, and Neil's there in the song suggesting that all is not lost cause "someone's gonna rescue you" but his encouragement might be enough to hold on a little longer but doesn't arouse much more comfort

In Love and War, Neil ties the subject of Love and War back to his beginnings ("I sang songs about War from the back streets of Toronto") ... here he his in the autumn of his 40+ year career and we're back in two wars and Neil's alone singing about the scrouge of war ("Daddy won't ever come home") and now Neil's inner fears and vulnerabilities are mixed in with those of a society mixed up in war and death .. the songs is now both about Neil and society returning to the same themes, nothing's changed, all the hope of the 60s and the activism long gone, all the fellow activists burned out and long gone, and Neil's alone on his stool, acoustic guitar in hand harping on the same old ills and nothing's changed (I guess "singing a song won't change the world") ... he contrasts that with breaking the heart of his lover, a destruction of sorts within his inner world, and the inner world and outer world again swirling together, the same self destruction, society and the individual,

"I made a mistake and I did it again
And we struggled to recover
Then I sang in anger hit another bad cord"

again and again, the sonics and the self destructiveness, society and the individual ...

Part 1 --

At 10/18/2010 01:16:00 AM, Blogger Dan1 said...

part II

Then Angry World, which I agree feels like the nexus of the album ... the American dream lost ... a future that feels bleak-

"Some see life as a broken promise
Some see life as an endless fight"

Everybody struggling and getting nowhere, the promise of materialism and self indulgence imploding ... everybody is angry about where we've come to as a country ...

But Neil's not seeing the negativity, standing outside of it all he insists that "everything is gonna be alright" and somehow he - and especially the reverb sonics, capture the uneasy mood of in the land - but this time Neil's reassurance is more convincing

Then Hitchhiker, takes us through his personal inner journey through rock and roll, his struggles and fears, high and low points, all the while never quite on solid and ground ... he's a hitchiker, dependant on others, vulnerable, he's broke ("didn't have the cash"), he's searching for meaning in all the wrong places, he get's to California which seems so hopeful but fame with BS and the anxiety eventually leads him to paranoia and to escape the scene, he finds personal pain and anguish ... but in the end he makes it through in one piece and where it really counts -- family -- he's together with his wonderful kids and faithful wife ... he's really not alone -- the journey ends on a high note

Then comes Peaceful Valley, a song I've come to love so deeply, I can say its as good as any song I've heard him play on an acoustic guitar ... he re-tells the history of the settling of America ... the song is as pessimistic as any I've heard him write ... he laments the destruction of mother nature and the centuries of its exploitation that have taken us to this place in history ... Here's Neil again, alone on a stool, decades later, the activist still singing about environmental destruction ... the activists of yester year are no longer, but Neil's still singing about it ... he's somehow made it through and he still cares deeply and he's lamenting the political inaction, the cars idling, the same environmental destruction now painted over a 300 year canvas, its the history of America, the battle between man and mother earth and nothing has really changes only Neil's no longer the lanky 25 year old with long hair, he's an old man now on a stool, alone, the activist, the same sins war and environmental destruction reverberating ...

And then Rumblin' - Neil feels the rumblin... it can't keep going like this ... we're at a breaking point ... even the one whose made it through realizes we're on the wrong path ... everyone feels it, everyone feels the angst of our times ... but Neil's back to reassure:

"I can feel the weather changing
I can feel it all around"

And he closes the album asking himself how can he give back ... the true activist, he's no longer the singer looking from outside in, now he's the singer looking inside out, part of this society, a man with courage, conviction, strength, whose outlasted them all, whose shown integrity and thoughtfulness throughout, has used his station in life to speak out about what's wrong and help those who are needy, he's ruminating on the ills and the angst and he's wondering what can he do to give back and make the world a better place ... how to help us out of this slump ...

alas the album ends on a high note, albeit, a restless one -- the weather's changin (for the better) and Neil's not giving up


At 10/18/2010 01:29:00 AM, Blogger Dan1 said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 10/26/2010 03:34:00 PM, Blogger haxanist said...

This would be a question rather than a review/comment, but I do give "Le Noise" a 9/10. Here's my question: Does anyone else notice at the end of Track 2 ("Sign Of Love") that there are 3 audible clicks or jumps in the audio? I thought it was only on my disc until I finally viewed the film on YouTube and all 3 "blurbs" are in there too. I just can't believe that Neil (or Lanois) would have tolerated these flaws. Does anyone have further insight on this topic? Thanks.

At 8/27/2011 07:19:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

... now I'm lost in an ever repeating "hitchhiker"-loop for about 45 minutes and i have to say: don't had such an experience for a long long time: it's kind o' moses talking to me from mount sinai. maybe neil is god. "... or see or be seen" what a line, what a sound, what a man - what a song - hitchhiker.

Malte, Germany


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