Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Neil Young Brings The Acoustic Noise

Neil Young has been around so long that a new release just kind of happens. There is no fanfare or hoopla. No TODAY SHOW live in Times Square performance or a retrospective special on VH1 prior to it's release. It just comes out; no single or video. Such was the case with his latest "Le Noise". A few items you should know about this

1) The album was produced by Daniel Lanois.
2) There is no backing band or additional musicians.
3) It is perhaps the noisiest acoustic record ever made.

Let me explain. The album opener is a double shot of crunchy, thick guitar tracks entitled "Walk With Me" and "Sign of Love". Despite the guitar, Lanois recorded the song as if it had been played acoustically so the vocals are clear and straightforward. It gives the songs a worn, bluesy feel. Young is mining the same territory lyrically that he always does in his acoustic troubadour mode, namely lost love and regrets of opportunities past. But unlike "Harvest" or "Harvest Moon", Young's sound choices here change the dynamic. He does put down the electric guitar for the achingly plaintive "Love and War"; a meditation on the relationship between those that go to war and the loves they leave behind and wistful "Peaceful Valley Boulevard" which could have been an outtake from either of the "Harvest" collections.

This sound may be the closest to an amalgamation of his otherwise dual musical personality. When he plays with Crazy Horse, it's balls out rock and roll. When he is by himself, he is more somber and melancholy. Here the lyrics are the latter but the sound is the former (sort of). It's a confoundedly odd listen but after a couple of spins you begin to appreciate both Young and Lanois for their creation. It's a fresh take on both Young's patented sound and a reinvention of the old singer-songwriter format that he helped pioneer. It reminds me why I love his music so much in the first place.

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