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Album review: Neil Young, "Le Noise"

neil youngNeil Young teams with acclaimed producer Daniel Lanois on his new album. (Tracy Woodward/TWP)

By Allison Stewart

"I've tried to leave my past behind," Neil Young sings on his new album, "Le Noise," and it's at least partly true: Few artists have struggled harder to find new sonic landscapes upon which to explore the same lyrical themes. "Le Noise," a noise-folk experiment conducted with producer Daniel Lanois, finds Young both examining and strip-mining his past.

Hard times tend to make for great Neil Young albums, and "Le Noise" might be his best since 1995's "Mirror Ball." An angry folk album at heart, it braces Young's stalwart folk-rock songs against a barrage of whirligig sounds usually better suited to emerging electro bands from Brooklyn.

Young's preoccupations -- the futility of war, the fecklessness of bankers and politicians -- are more relevant than ever. On the disarmingly meta "Love and War," one of the disc's few conventional guitar ballads, Young sings about singing about war ("When I sing about love and war/I don't really know what I'm sayin' "). And "Hitchhiker" is a molasses-thick travelogue through Young's pharmaceutical-happy past.

The best tracks here are harrowing and insistent, loud enough to kick up a racket, quiet enough to pick up every quaver in Young's increasingly wintry voice. Lanois and Young used souped-up electric and acoustic guitars to create most all the disc's distortion, loops and vocal effects -- a novel way of getting where electro bands have long gone. "Le Noise" feels like a discovery, even if it's really the sound of Young discovering the same sonic scratches and scrapes everyone else has been using for years, dressed up in a more artful package.

Recommended tracks: "Love and War," "Hitchhiker"

By Allison Stewart  | September 28, 2010; 10:45 AM ET
Categories:  Quick spins  | Tags:  Neil Young  
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Mirror Ball eh? That's quite a comparison given his catalog, but a legitimate one nonetheless. From the pre-release / video tracks, Le Noise seems to be another brick in Mr. Young's wall of sounds, that have made him both enigmatic and addictive. As a bad critic, since I like nearly everything Mr. Young puts out, I'm a bit biased in my view. That said, not many other artists can produce so many albums from so many points of view and still be considered relevant as hell as in Mr. Young's case. I don't believe there is anyone else out there that can generate such wattage and heat from both the acoustic and electric guitars. That alone is worth the price of admission to this album or anyone of Mr. Young's shows.

Posted by: bushmills | September 28, 2010 7:43 PM | Report abuse

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