Tuesday, January 29, 2008

No. 344: Berlin

Band: Lou Reed
Album: Berlin
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Lou Reed's third album is something of concept album (Robert Christgau calls it a "song cycle") and includes reworkings of Velvet Underground songs and traverses the usual places where Reed is familiar.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: How much Lou Reed do we really need? At some point, how much do we need to hear about heroin, cross-dressing and failed romance?
Best song: "Caroline Says (II)" is pretty good and the title track is great.
Worst song: "How Do You Think It Feels"
Is it awesome?: It's good, sure.

I understand Lou Reed is one of the truly unique voices in rock and roll. I understand that his work with the Velvet Underground is nearly unparalleled in its influence on the underground. I understand that his edginess was incredibly important for the culture.

With all that said, Lou Reed in his post-Velvets days was basically a more guitar-based David Bowie. There's a lot to like about that, but it also gets a little tired.

There's beauty in Reed's soft-spoken vocals on "Caroline Says (II)" and the title track, both reworked versions of earlier Reed songs. The cacophony of "Oh, Jim" is cool, even if the horns are a little much. "The Kids" is a cool experiment, though creepy. "The Bed" is evocative and cool.

But, again, it's all a little trying.

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