Album Review by Mark Bayross
Lou Reed’s reputation as the surliest man in rock would possibly be forgivable if he came up with a decent song more than once every decade. Sure WALK ON THE WILD SIDE and PERFECT DAY were gems, but whereas artists like Bowie have been unafraid to move with the times (granted, not always successfully), Lou has stubbornly remained Lou.
The signs were always there, of course. The Velvet Underground, like their mentor Andy Warhol, were always more surface than substance, shade-wearing drug-addled bohemia that paved the way for a cooler, blacker musical revolution but did little else.
ECSTASY is Lou Reed’s first studio album since 1996’s SET THE TWILIGHT REELING, although he has been busy in the meantime – recording the live album PERFECT NIGHT at the Royal Festival Hall, playing for Bill Clinton and Vaclav Havel, and co-writing the play “Poe-try” for the Hamburg stage.
For a songwriter so renowned for his lyrical flair, this album comes as a bit of a shock: “Some couples live in harmony / Some do not / Some couples shout and scream / Some do not / But what you said was something that I can’t forget / It echoes in my head like a bullet made of lead” (“Tatters”). Not convinced? How about: “You said we’d meet but you’re 2 hours late / You said you thought someone had picked your gate / So you hid and were afraid to wait” (“Paranoia Key Of E”).
Seriously, folks, anyone who can sing “Dumb – you’re as dumb as my thumb…..Scum – you said I’m scum” (“Dumb”) and keep a straight face deserves to be applauded. And when Lou sings “And maybe I should be in Edinburrow / In a kilt in Edinburrow” you have to ask yourself if he’s trying to be deliberately irritating.
As he warbles through the acoustic strum of the title track (“Nothing ever sticks to you / Not Velcro not Scotch tape / Not my arms dipped in glue / Not of I wrap myself in nylon / A piece of duct tape down my back”) you have to seriously wonder where the hell his marbles went.
It’s not even as if the music makes up for all this nonsense. Pedestrian for the most part, the occasional gearshift upwards in pace (FUTURE FARMERS OF AMERICA, WHITE PRISM) just sounds plain daft with lyrics like this – “There’s a white prism with phony jism / Spread across its face” (!)
It gets worse. If the band had tuned their instruments before recording ROCK MINUET, it would undoubtedly have improved the track, while LIKE APOSSUM is a totally tuneless 18-minute long dirge – an endurance test for which he’s saved the best lyrics of the lot: “Good morning it’s Possum Day / Feel like a possum in every way – like a possum / Possum whiskers possum face / Possum breath and a possum taste / Like a possum”.
Who says Lou Reed doesn’t have a sense of humour?