Review Summary: A unique, dark and intimate addition to Neil Young’s repertoire
Neil Young’s late career albums have been mixed affairs. Whilst fans of his work will tell you he’s continued to maintain the high standard he is known for, others will argue that his recent albums are mostly mediocre offerings that lack the creative spark of his earlier records. This is particularly true of his previous outing, Fork In The Road. With Le Noise however, Neil Young has bucked the trend of recent records and released an album that for the first time in years, is surprisingly different. Armed only with his guitar and uniquely identifiable voice, Young (with help from producer Daniel Lanois) has crafted a stark and intimate record.
Opening with “Walk With Me”, the albums intentions are made immediately clear. The guitar swirls and resonates, thanks to producer Lanois, and Young’s vulnerable vocals sing of hardships and losing friends along the way. Without the backing of a band, Young’s song writing is brought front and centre and luckily in the case of Le Noise, the songs are strong enough for it to work. And work they do. Tracks such as “Angry World” and “Hitchhiker” are two of the best songs Young has ever committed to tape and it is tantalising to think what they would have been like with the backing of a band. Then again to dwell on that is to do an injustice to this record.
As Le Noise proves, these songs don’t need a band and by being conveyed through one guitar and some studio wizardy, they resonate in a way that not only sees Young put out something different, but in doing so put out an album that is his most vital in over a decade. The aforementioned ‘Angry World’ begins with a vocal loop before the loud and heavy guitar swells to life and consumes the listener. All of the songs are treated with various effects and sonics that achieve the goal of making Shaky’s guitar and voice sound as full and loud as an orchestra, none more effectively than on ‘Angry World’, ‘Sign Of Love’ and the brilliant ‘Hitchhiker’.
Due to the fact that it is just Neil and his trusty guitar, the songs take on a more personal feel and in a lot of ways sound like individual performances. At times it’s a sombre affair, at others uplifting, but in any case the listener is drawn into a dark and intimate listening experience and a rewarding one at that.
For those unfamiliar with Neil Young’s work, this wouldn’t be an ideal place to start but fans of his exceptional career will find much to love in this album, if only for the fact that it puts a new and refreshing spin on everything we have come to love from the great man. This album definitely stands out in Young’s catalogue and for all that right reasons. Given the size and breadth of said catalogue, that’s no mean feat.