First, let me say that the title of this post probably doesn’t really work in French, as the French probably don’t refer to really cool things as being “the shit.” Is shit masculine or feminine?
That said, Neil Young’s new album “Le Noise” is fucking amazing, and Neil Young is a genius. It’s one of many Neil Young experiments and my current favorite. Part of Young’s genius (or call it courage) is his ability, indeed, fondness for shunning his classic rock safety zone, in which he will always sell a gozillion records in favor of recording some really way out shit.
Admittedly, I haven’t liked all of it. Like the one he did with the voice synthesizer on every song, or the one he did with the Shocking Pinks. (Yes, yes, I know, a lot of people loved that one.) My favorite “experiment” was the Blue Notes, and I remember people booing him at a “Blue Notes” era concert because he wasn’t doing “Heart of Gold” or any other of his overplayed FM radio songs. I was disgusted.
I’ve listened to the album a few times since I got it, but today on the way home was the first time I REALLY listened to it. Four speakers and a hundred or so watts is all it takes for a good listening. From the opening bars to the end, it’s Neil Young guitar at its crunchiest and most beautiful, with prodigious knob tweaking by producer Daniel Lanois. As Lanois put it in an interview with NPR, “there is no band, no overdubs, just a man on a stool and me doing a nice job on the recording.” I’m not always a fan of Lanois.. I think he usually softens things too much for my often bombastic tastes, but he’s dead on with this one.
Editor’s Note: I was going to put in a picture of Daniel Lanois here but the Google Image Search produced a picture of a naked woman on one of his album covers and, even though she’s brandishing a dagger and looking fierce, it’s still more fun to look at than Lanois.
Young’s voice, which never really sounds good, never sounded better than on this CD. His singing is strong, plaintive and passionate throughout, whether it’s a retrospective song about his life, a love song or my favorite “Love and War.”
Listen to this album if you’re only a casual Neil Young fan. You might dismiss it as one of those “weird” efforts, but if you REALLY listen to it, it may just become your favorite “weird” CD.