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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

More Reactions to Neil Young's "Le Noise" Album


Le Noise by Neil Young
(Listen to sample tracks)

Unsurprisingly, reactions to Neil Young's latest album "Le Noise" have been mixed but overall very positive from both fans and critics.

As we observed in our meta-review, it is fascinating how the same critics who are waxing rhapsodic now over "Le Noise" were unable to muster much enthusiasm for Young's earlier 21st century output. And naturally fans are quite passionate in their opinions of the Daniel Lanois produced release and its "sonics".

So here's some thoughts from those bloggers and our dear readers. From Noise Narcs:
"Noise Narc has added Neil Young’s Le Noise to our (Not So) Short List of Best Albums of 2010.

I was more than a little incredulous. Don’t get me wrong, I love Mr. Young. His December ’08 concert at Philly’s Wachovia was a revelation, putting openers Wilco firmly in their place. And several of his recent albums have been pretty good. But not best of the year good. By a long shot. And teaming up with famed producer Daniel Lanois sounds like a stunt Paul McCartney would pull (and has).

But [the] nomination was sound. This is a killer album.

Young’s guitar work and age-ripened voice pairs excellently with Lanois’ Waves of Noise. And unlike, say, some of Lou Reed’s left field albums, it doesn’t sound so much like a Neil Young experiment as a way for him to refract the essence of his music off another style, much like Dylan’s Nashville Skyline. Though this “Peaceful Valley Boulevard” is not the most representative track, its kinship with “Cortez the Killer” makes a tempting set piece.

From sugarmtn:
I 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 Rescue 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.

And from the always thoughtful and provocative Matthew L. who responds to sugarmtn's comment:
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.

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.

Thanks Sugar Mountain & Matt, as always!

Neil Young and Producer Daniel Lanois with Le Noise crew

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

- Thrasher's Wheat Meta-Review: Neil Young's "Le Noise"
- 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.

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

We've been getting some feedback that the comments editor is acting quirky.

So if you're composing something substantial, please copy and save to your clipboard before hitting Publish.

If you get a 503 error, try and paste again. It seems to be a transient issue.

The TW engineering crew is hard at work resolving (i.e, we have no idea what's going on...)


At 10/05/2010 10:30:00 AM, Blogger doc said...

Well thats a relief Thrash....I had this uneasy feeling of de ja vous!!ya know how much i like the comments editor! lol

luv doc

At 10/05/2010 02:45:00 PM, Blogger Greg Mantho said...

After about four listen throughs, I understand both viewpoints. Time will have to tell where I place this on my personal list, but for the moment I agree that it doesn't rise to the level of On The Beach, Rust Never Sleeps, After The Goldrush, etc. But it's so hard to compare these things. Matured Neil vs. young Neil, varying musical styles, varying inspiration, finding new ground to cover, etc. I side more with Matthews view, tho, because I think that what at first seems like banal lyrics, belies the simple truths at work underneath. Charles Dickens famously summed up the French Revolution in one line: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." He then proceeded to write in fine detail and intricate characterization maybe the finest book ever on the subject. I'm happy to have both, but what more could be said to say the essential truth of it, than the one line? I don't know how these things work, but it seems reasonable to me that Neil at this point in his life simply prefers to cut to the chase. I think I'll just quit there, and forego any more speculation.

I think the album probably is very much about loss, and the individuals reaction to it. Maybe more about helplessness, or resignation in the face of things we just don't have any control over, e.g. the death of loved ones, man's incessant clashing and warring on a "darkling plane", the aimless destruction of the environment, and the steamrolling of cultures in the pursuit of profits. I see it also as a seeking out of something to hold onto, something that will help to explain the senselessness and loss. But as has been said already a few times, it is also about the imperative to move on and continue to struggle, to hope that there is a way out of it all. In this sense, Peaceful Valley Boulevard and Love And War, in addition to being two of the best songs Neil has ever put out, make perfect sense to me, and Rumblin' too, as the recognition that as a planet we are poised at the intersection of the old and the new. I haven't felt it in any physical rumbling, but I have known this for a long time, maybe most of my life. Whatever you want to call it- Zeitgeist, universal mind, Neils wired into it, and Le Noise is his unique way of saying it. Great album.

A Friend Of Yours

At 10/05/2010 03:52:00 PM, Blogger Matthew Lintzenich said...

Awesome Greg, yes!

See, the thing about this album is that it REALLY makes people think, really deeply about things.

Whereas Fork in the Road could be summed up in a short paragraph, Le Noise could have books written about it! And each book might be a completely different interpretation, too (though certainly related in essence...).

It's just that kind of album, which is why the more simple lyrics create such a glaring contrast, and work so well as part of the whole complexity of it (IMO).

Let's not forget that one of the most famous and thought-provoking poems in modern history goes:

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

People have tirelessly written longwinded essays about these few, simple lines, because... well, they say so much about so many important things!

And that is the genius of properly applied simplicity.

At 10/05/2010 04:55:00 PM, Blogger SONY said...

Did'nt Neil say in the recent interview 'not to think' or he tries not to think or his worst sh^t comes out when he thinks or tries to think?

I have tried not to 'think' about the sound, the delivery, the vibe and the visuals when getting into LeNoise. Only wanting to let it inundate me and envelope me as it plays. Comparisons are, to me, worthless. I can only say how this new stuff has made it's impression on me. The only benchmark I have to this is it's NEIL, and what can you expect from Neil and be right about?

Kinda like a sunny day or a great unexpected happening. I say, just enjoy the f#@ker. As Alice told Ralph Kramden a long time ago ..."don't think Ralph, you'll only get yourself into trouble"

Anyhow, those are just my thoughts about it. I think.

At 10/07/2010 01:00:00 AM, Blogger Dan said...


To add something to what you so eloquently said, I was thinking about why Neil chose now to work with Laonis --as the interviewer asked Neil, why now? Of course Neil didn't answer the question so much as he said why not now ... but perhaps it had to do with the fact that Neil sensed he was going to write an album reflecting the times -- confusion, conflict between ideas, people, governments, anger, the sense that things are simmering and boiling and something big's gonna happen but its not clear what - all the things you expressed so well in your post ... and that Neil saw the sonics as a vehicle to musically express all these things and to compliment the ideas ... the echos, the electric riffs that come back again and again, hauntingly ... to me the sounds are musically expressing all those things you described ...


At 10/11/2010 01:51:00 PM, Blogger The Loner said...

I have just listened to the album for a week and it is growing on me. I still think i like Living with War and Prairie Wind better, though - just to say that to me this is probbly not his best record the last decade. To me (by now) Love and War is by far the best track on this record and that song and Peaceful Valley Bouleward makes me dream about what ann all accoustic album would have been like. Maybe in Archives vol 5? More important: I am not finished with this record and if I know of Neil (who does?) there will be new interesting stuff coming in a while...


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