Thursday, September 02, 2010

A time for looking at tunes of songs past, I suppose.

1) Lou Reed, "Last Great American Whale". My current perception of what it means for an album to be good is strongly rooted in the hope that I can listen to it in a year or two, without looking back at the songs as being merely appropriate for a particular time in my life. I'm glad to report that at its one year anniversary, Reed's New York passes the test. It's hard to say why Reed's poetic impulses are so compelling when he filters them through his dirty realism (for lack of a better phrase). But the words seem to have that ability of all great lyrics, of coming to you years into the future and forcing you to pause and reflect, without necessarily knowing why.

2) Lou Reed, "My House". The Blue Mask has passed the above test year after year, but only recently have I begun to fully appreciate how important it is. The opening track sets a reflective tone that is very uncommon for rock music: when trying to recollect my feelings on first hearing this song, I realized that it's no wonder I used to be obsessed with this type of music! Even after all this time, I have to say that it's Reed's finest (near) spoken-word song; and mind you, that's a category with some stiff competition (see #1!). Popular song is a remarkable medium to allow something like this to exist and feel natural.

3) Bruce Springsteen, "The Promised Land". Six years ago, I was initially hooked by the harmonica line on this song. Six years later, it sounds as good as ever when it cuts through at the beginning. Yet, the song's place in my emotional history is cemented by the words: their passionate frustration is a perfect response to the music, and they convey a very genuine desire to do away with the forces keep a dream in chains. Remarkably, the hyperbolic praise I had for the album way back when now seems nothing more than perfectly apt.

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