If Sleeps With Angels — Neil Young's 1994 reaction to the death of Seattle grunge-rock icon Kurt Cobain — has been called the sequel to his dark masterpiece Tonight's The Night, you could just as easily label Le Noise an extension of past work ranging from 1983's Trans to 2005's Prairie Wind.
To do so however, would also be to sell it way too short. Le Noise is in fact the boldest sounding, most artistically challenging record Neil Young has made in a decade or more. It is also easily his best album in at least that long. As is so often the case with Neil Young, time will probably tell. But on an initial listen, Le Noise has the feel of a classic.
This is also an album that is best played very loud on a stereo system with a pair of speakers that can take it (and preferably somewhere where you won't piss off the neighbors). Forget the iPod and the earbuds. There is simply no other way to properly experience the way producer Daniel Lanois has added multiple sonic dimensions to Neil's guitar the way he does on Le Noise, then played at maximum volume. This sucker needs to be turned up way loud.
Comparisons to the infamous syntho-pop of Trans are probably inevitable though. Producer Daniel Lanois' electronic treatments of Neil Young's massively cranked, white electric Gretsch guitar manifest themselves nearly as often in the whirring and clicking noises heard at the end of "Walk With Me" as they do in the deep humming, speaker rattling feedback of "The Hitchhiker." On the latter, Neil even manages to sneak in a line from "Like An Inca" — a song from, you guessed it, Trans.
The eight songs on Le Noise also find Neil Young at his most lyrically personal and introspective since Prairie Wind. On the aforementioned "Walk With Me" and "Hitchhiker," as well as on "Sign Of Love" and "Love And War," Neil Young reflects back on his life — and even questions some of his past decisions and behavior — before seeming to finally find a tentative sort of peace within himself.