This sure has been a month for rediscovering old classics. OMD’s Dazzle Ships, Love’s Da Capo, Elvis Costello’s My Aim Is True and now Lou Reed’s The Blue Mask.
The Blue Mask came out in 1982 and at that time it wasn’t too hip to be lovin’ Reed. He just came off a string of poorly reviewed albums (Growing Up In Public, The Bells) and was competing with bands that couldn’t hold a candle to The Velvet Underground yet, stylistically and lyrically, owed them and Reed a humongous debt.
The Blue Mask is notable in the fact that Lou was clean and sober for the first time in many years, and the songwriting is clearer and concise. That is to say there are actual songs on this record, unlike his abhorrent Metal Machine Music (I don’t give a rat’s ass if the Chemical Brothers and a host of ambient and sub-par industrial bands think it’s fantastic, it’s shit!) .
To be honest, I think it’s his best since the Velvet Underground, even one upping the magnificent glam artifact that is Transformer and two upping Coney Island Baby and Street Hassle. The fact that Reed’s playing guitar again helps as well. Just listen to the metal feedback of the title track, pure organized chaos. Robert Quine adds a healthy dose of the danger with his evil power chords and Lou’s singing is at it’s most nakedly emotional and angry.
The rest of the album, most notably the eerie The Gun and The Day John Kennedy Died, is equally great.
Just because I was in the mood I also downloaded Street Hassle, which is a mini horror opera that Pete Townsend would’ve killed to pen. It’s worth it for Bruce Springsteen’s short but extremely effective cameo in which he cribs his own lyrics from Born To Run.
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