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Friday, December 03, 2010

Comment of the Moment: Neil Young's Le Noise Grammy Nomination

Illustration by Tim O'Brien - Rolling Stone Magazine

Yesterday, came word that Neil Young's Le Noise received 3 Grammy nominations.

The news was not entirely unsurprising given the reviews which verged on over the top, ecstatic raves which we did find somewhat amusing. We went into this a bit in our Le Noise review at the time about how critics now we're falling all over themselves for Le Noise today, when they could not even barely listen to the "Be The Change" Trilogy of Greendale, Living With War, and Fork in the Road upon their initial release.

While so many have come around on the "Be The Change" Trilogy, even to this day, many are still quite dismissive of Neil Young's early 21st century works.

All of which brings us to our Comment of the Moment on Review: Neil Young's "Le Noise" by Dan1:
I keep listening to the album and it keeps getting better and better ... I'm already blown away by the one-two punch of [other's] analysis, 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 ...

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


Thanks Dan! Totally excellent and spot on!


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

Also, see Review: Neil Young's "Le Noise".

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