Saturday, November 05, 2011

I've commented at least a couple of times previously that despite owning so many of his albums, I still feel like I haven't the faintest idea what makes Lou Reed tick. I suspect this is a sentiment that will only strengthen with time. (This isn't apropos Lulu specifically, but it is a good example.) I find myself unable to answer the most basic questions about what his music is about, and sometimes unable to assess if at the end of it all, the guy is good or not. It's true that he's come up with some unusual -- sometimes jarring, sometimes humorous -- rhymes and lines, which it's convenient to attribute to his being natural. But that's a potentially oversimplifying judgement, one that could apply to near anyone. What is it that makes the music interesting? What occurs to me is that you get the sense that you are learning something about him when you listen to his albums. And it isn't just that he pours out the complex emotions that broil inside; in the course of an average song, it's as if he's just chatting with you about what's currently on his mind. This simple fact opens many possible points of empathetic connection. Even when the songs are throwaways, they come across as heartfelt by virtue of there being no (indication of) pretense in the writing. And when they're about weighty concepts, the blunt, almost clumsy way he writes about them makes it seem impossible that it's any form of posturing. In sum: he means what he says, and he has things to say. Which is a rarity in any form of art.

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