Hippie Days Are Over, But Neil Young Can Still Rock the Gretsch Like No One Else

After riding on the coattails of releases past for a few years, the prolific Big Papa Smurf of grunge — the one and only Neil Young — is now giving us eight brand new tracks with Le Noise. Produced by Daniel Lanois of U2’s The Joshua Tree and Bob Dylan’s Time Out of Mind fame, the album is a boiled-down brew of stereotypical Young: a man on a stool, shredding it on a white Gretsch Falcon that saw the sixties trickle into the seventies with him.

The strange and almost mythical aura that surrounds Young is only fueled by the elements that brought about the making of Le Noise: the man only recorded when there was a bad moon rising. The album took four full moons to record at Lanois’ Silver Lake mansion and — according to Young in the Chicago Tribune Lanois made his Gretsch “sound like God.”

If God can speak, then he must be able to simultaneously sound electrified and unplugged, and heaven must be an echo chamber. Looped over riffage similar to that found in his work with Crazy Horse, Young’s 64-year-old voice describes nakedly autobiographical tales of loss. This year, Young lost both his steel guitarist Ben Keith to a heart attack in his own home, as well as filmmaker Larry Johnson, with whom Young collaborated since they met at Woodstock.

The songwriter also ruminates on the trite theme of love and war in an acoustic track titled — what else — “Love and War.” It’s not exactly new material for Young, who has crafted more enduring political anthems like “Rockin’ In The Free World,” but it proves to be one of the album’s more accessible tracks. The same could be said of feedback-heavy opener “Walk with Me,” a reflection upon regretful choices.

The album isn’t the easiest album to digest in Young’s decade-spanning career — with no one but the man and the electric guitar, the tracks are more atmospheric than melodic. However, the songwriter has crafted an album full of impeccably surreal grooves, showing that the AARP-generation can still own 39 minutes like it’s no one’s business.

Josephine Nguyen

Staff Writer

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