Neil Young: Le Noise
Neil Young is a first-rate iconoclast and one of the few successful rock artists who has remained truly uncompromising throughout his long and storied career. Of course, uncompromising can result in inconsistency, something that has followed Young around for the better part of three decades. Still, he's Neil Young and he's not to be ignored.
The folks at his label, Reprise, must have simply shaken their heads when Young told them he was going to make a record with absolutely no commercial appeal, a record featuring him (no band, no rhythm section) playing loud and dirty electric guitar and super-producer Daniel Lanois throwing in some electronic bleeps, bloops, and loops on top of it all.
Young revisits his two most favorite themes, love and war, throughout Le Noise (there's even an acoustic tune called "Love and War"), and he seasons them with reflection on the past and a sense of unsentimental nostalgia ("When we both have silver hair / And a little less time / But there's still our roses on the vine," he sings on the record's best song, "Sign of Love").
Le Noise is essentially a Neil Young and Crazy Horse record, but with Crazy Horse nowhere to be found. Lanois, the guy behind a lot of U2 records, smooths some of the rough edges off of Young's severely overdriven guitar sound and takes some of the bite out of his nasally falsetto. And that's where the record slightly stumbles: a polished Neil Young is a less-potent Neil Young.
Still, if you like Young's "godfather of grunge" output, Le Noise is a must-hear. If you favor his "godfather of Americana" stuff, you should probably just wait till his inevitably softer next record.
Best song: "Sign of Love"
Deja Vu: Old-timers that still rock
I'd rather listen to: Young's post-heyday masterpiece, Ragged Glory, recorded with the awesome Crazy Horse in 1990.
Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 41-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here. The "Nothing Not New" Archives:
December 27 -- Girl Talk: All Day (B-)
December 14 -- Tierra del Fuego: Queen of the Rendezvous (A)
December 10 -- Odds 'n' Sods: Helmet, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Ron Wood, and more
December 9 -- Mini Mansions: Mini Mansions (B+)
December 8 -- Sun City Mariachi: Funeral Mariachi (B+)
December 7 -- Daft Punk: Tron Legacy (C)
December 6 -- The Parting Gifts: Strychnine Dandelions (B)
December 3 -- Kanye West: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (D+)
December 2 -- Sharon Van Etten: Epic (B)
December 1 -- OFF!: First Four EPs (A-)
November 30 -- Robyn: Body Talk (B+)
November 29 -- Steve Wynn & the Miracle 3: Northern Aggression (A-)
November 16 -- Stereolab: Not Music (B-)
November 15 -- The Fresh & Onlys: Play It Strange (C+)