Album reviews

Le Noise by Neil Young

Recently I’ve been reading Waging Heavy Pace (Neil Young’s autobiography) and a natural part of such a process is to listen to the music that’s mentioned along the way. I’d already heard a lot of the classics so we don’t need to go there, but Le Noise got my attention because it’s pretty different.

The instrumentation for the whole album is deceptively simple:

  • Neil’s voice
  • Acoustic guitar
  • A handful of synthesizers
  • And ‘Old Black

My favorite tracks:

1. Walk With Me

Walk With Me opens the album, introducing the distorted guitar sound and heavily delayed vocals that we hear through most of the album. The song itself is fairly simple, Neil’s vocals sounding as good as ever. The thing that made the song for me however was the lovely ambient electronic breakdown at the end. As if to give us a peep into some other world.

2. Love and War

Fourth track on the album and we finally get a different texture, acoustic guitar and voice. On first listening it felt like a long time coming, but well worth it. The song is a wonderful ballad, mournful but somewhat hopeful. Admitting a lack of knowledge, despite seeing a lot. Hoping for things to be better, knowing that they may not.

I really enjoyed the nice touches with the harmony through the piece. The verses are in A minor and choruses in G, with some interesting interplay between the two. Particularity the usage of D7 (the V of G) resolving to Am instead. Music theorists would call this a deceptive resolution but to me it just feels like we’re going back down into the trenches.

3. Peaceful Valley Boulevard

Lovely, mournful, really nice song.

When learning this it took me quite a while to realize what was going on in the chorus. At first I thought it was an Ebm7b5 and was trying to find a voicing that matched what I was hearing. In the end I worked out that it was actually an even more dissonant Ebdim7 chord.

Also the break to F major took me right back to Starman by David Bowie. It only goes for 30 seconds but the effect was immense. And the deceptive resolution (there’s the term again!) back to Em felt like it all just died and faded away into memory.

Things I didn’t like

There are no drums! This is great in the acoustic songs but there were moments in the electric tracks where I just wanted more.

Additionally, after hearing Walk With Me I felt like Sign of Love was a bit plain. This was followed by Someone’s Gonna Rescue You and it took me a while to shake the feeling of “Is the whole album like this?”

And in fact that’s the main gripe I have: except for Walk With Me, the electric tracks all feel the same.

My overall rating: 6/10