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Neil Young solo + Daniel Lanois = 5 stars
on September 29, 2010
When listening to Le Noise - Neil Young's sparse solo album produced by Daniel Lanois, I'm reminded of the gritty beauty of the instrumental soundtrack he composed for Jim Jarmusch's 1995 film "Dead Man." It too resonated with Young's signature, distorted electric guitar sound channelled through a warm tube amp, with chaotic stray notes and string wipes filling the ether. That this album is further enhanced by the soundboard magicianry of Lanois and a rich storytelling lyrical construct makes it even better. A few tracks glow like the burning embers of songs like "Sleeps With Angels". I heard a pre-album-release track on CBC Radio 2 a couple of weeks before this hit the store shelves and was instantly in love with the concept.
A sea change of sorts is immediately evident, with Lanois utilizing a bevy of effects that would feel more at home on a Caribou album than on the work of an old master like Neil Young. Track 5 "Angry World" opens with a loop of a lyric fragment that plays in the background throughout the entire song. The application of Lanois' production isn't heavy handed, but it is definitely a key factor in the presentation.
A somber tone is generated right from the opening riff. Young is reflective, and serves as a tour guide on some of the lesser episodes in his past. This is most notable in "Hitchiker" as he recalls a few indulgences in the various locales he's hit over the years. He is also observant - and his eyes see destruction and despair. In "Peaceful Valley Boulevard", one of the two acoustic tracks, he effectfully sings "Who will be the one to lead the nation, who will be the one to protect God's creation?" Suggestions of caution and preservation are the overwhelming themes at work here.
Stripped down. Interesting effects. Neil Young. Daniel Lanois. Perfection.