Le Noise

Neil Young

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Le Noise Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

The old conventional wisdom on Neil Young used to be that he alternated between acoustic folk and full-on guitar skronk with every other album, but 2010’s Le Noise -- the French affection in its title a tongue-in-cheek tip of the beret to his producer Daniel Lanois -- melds the two extremes. At its core, it’s a singer/songwriter album, a collection of reflections and ruminations about life and loss in the modern world, war imagery rubbing against battered memories and tattered autobiography, the songs leisurely following their own winding path, but it’s produced loudly, with Neil supporting himself with only his electric guitar for all but two tracks, where he switches the Les Paul for an acoustic. He’s not in Crazy Horse mode, spitting out chunky garage rock riffs, but strumming his overdriven electric, with Lanois tweaking the results, accentuating the ambience in post-production. To say the least, this results in a distinctive album, but it plays differently than it reads, sounding not too dissimilar from the Bush-era laments of Freedom. If Le Noise isn’t as galvanizing as Freedom, it’s because it’s created on a considerably smaller scale, its eight songs containing no masterpieces and Lanois’ moody noir production reining in Young’s messy signature. So, Le Noise winds up as something elusive and intriguing, a minor mood piece that seems to promise more than it actually delivers.

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