Neil Young - Le Noise
Neil Young will be 65 next month yet shows little sign of slowing down, with Le Noise his ninth studio album since 2000. This output has tended to be fairly well-received on release but few outside the long-time Young fanbase will find themselves reaching for the likes of Are You Passionate? or Fork in the Road long after the fact. Those fans will revel in this latest release, chock full as it is with just Neil and his big white Gretsch guitar, aided and abbetted by Daniel Lanois' toolbox of trickery and effects.
Lanois' input stops Le Noise being too one-dimensional; sometimes after yet another few minutes of just Young's reedy voice and his fat guitar you want a full band to kick in - which they never do - but the production casts an eerie shadow over proceedings. Two acoustic numbers also break things up a little: 'Love and War' is a curiously humble affair in which Young reflects that "When I sing about love and war / I don't really know what I'm saying". Coming from one of the few musicians of note who found the strength to discuss events in Afghanistan and Iraq he initially seems defeated, yet by song's end seems to better understand how his artistic life has been bookended by conflict and how, even in the midst of it all, there can be hope.
'Hitchhiker' is another of Young's tracks which have been rescued from his back catalogue of unreleased material, and the almost monologue-style lyrics, where the protagonist talks of trying hash, amphetamine and cocaine places it firmly in the early 1970s in which it was originally drafted. The itinerant lifestyle described within, and the problems it causes ("We had a kid and we split apart"), becomes a reflection on simply getting through ("I don't know how I'm standing here / Living my life") which is even more pertinant considering it's being sung by the author more than 30 years on.
File under "Must remember to give that one a spin a bit more often".