Monday, October 20, 2008

The Man In The Blue Mask

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.


Mark said...

I don't actually have The Blue Mask, but I've heard good things about it. I like Lou, and Transformer was the work of a genius. There's a terrific live version of The Day John Kennedy Died on Lou's 2004 CD Animal Serenade, what a gorgeous and moving song. (Which isn't what we normally expect from Lou.) He's good at throwing curveballs, like his latest album, which is apparently music for meditation!

Harry Ames, Jr. said...

Excerpt from "Street Hassle" by Lou Reed

Hey, that cunts not breathing
I think shes had too much
Of something or other, hey, man, you know what I mean
I dont mean to scare you
But youre the one who came here
And youre the one whos gotta take her when you leave
Im not being smart
Or trying to be cold on my part
And Im not gonna wear my heart on my sleeve
But you know people get all emotional
And sometimes, man, they just dont act rational
They think theyre just on tv

Sha-la-la-la, man
Why dont you just slip her away

You know, Im glad that we met man
It really was nice talking
And I really wish that there was a little more time to speak
But you know it could be a hassle
Trying to explain myself to a police officer
About how it was that your old lady got herself stiffed
And its not like we could help
But there was nothing no one could do
And if there was, man, you know I would have been the first
But when someone turns that blue
Well, its a universal truth
And then you just know that bitch will never fuck again
By the way, thats really some bad shit