Music: Neil Young ****
Le Noise (Reprise)
The ever-busy and prolific Canadian is back on form with this powerful, largely acoustic eight-track album.
Le Noise finds Young collaborating with Daniel Lanois, best known for his work with U2 and Bob Dylan, and the pair have created a collection that's both profound and deeply personal.
Anyone under the mistaken impression that Young's best days are behind him needs to hear the album's six-minute centrepiece, Love and War. Clearly autobiographical, the song packs a devastating emotional punch as Neil's rasping vocals sing of the utter futility of war. It's a fantastic song -- in its own way as special as The Needle and the Damage Done.
Elsewhere, Sign of Love finds Young offer a simple, romantic declaration. He's aware of his own mortality as he sings: "We both have silver hair/And a little less time/But there are still roses on the vine."
Young's obsession with ecological matters -- typified by his Greendale album of 2003 -- is to the fore on a number of songs. Peaceful Valley chronicles how the American West was settled and how the utopian ideals of those travellers eventually gave way to environmental destruction.
Lyrically, Young is on the top of his game. There isn't a wasted word, especially on the self-referencing Hitchhiker. "I was living on the road/A little cocaine went a long long way/To ease that different load/But my head did explode."
Burn it: Love and War; Hitchhiker