What a week, right? And by week, I mean the last half-hour. I know that this shit is beyond inconsequential, but my mental health has benefitted greatly from Lou Reed bootlegs. So let’s just keep the Summer of Lou alive, shall we?
Anyway, we’ve made it to the 21st century! We’ve achieved Ecstasy! This album proved that Lou still had some tricks up his sleeves, that he wasn’t willing to just go gentle into that good night. It’s a pretty dark collection of songs overall, whether in its depiction of long-term relationships or its delving back into the seamier corners of NYC life … we’re in “Blue Mask,” “Street Hassle” and “Kicks” territory here. Lou was long gone from those kinds of scenes (I assume), but he obviously had absorbed a lot back in the day. Maybe it just took him 20 years to start really dealing with it all.
On this tape, the extended “Rock Minuet” is the centerpiece; it’s one of Reed’s most disturbing songs, not only for its subject matter but also the harrowingly laid-back backing his band provides. Instead of bellowing, Lou is calm as an angel as he describes unspeakable depravity — “the curse of the alley, the thrill of the street.” During the instrumental sections, he and Fernando Saunders circle each other like birds of prey, climbing ever higher. Amazing and scary.
This is a very non-greatest hits oriented show, for sure, most of it devoted to Ecstasy, with only a few dips into the back catalogue. “The Blue Mask” is back for a frenzied run, Lou’s guitar screeching and skronking. “Smalltown” returns, reimagined as a bouncy power pop number. And “Romeo Had Juliette” features a very nice “What Goes On”-esque strumfest at the end, Lou and Mike Rathke locking in and blasting off. One more highlight — “Turning Time Around,” which goes from kinda cringe-y dadjokes to a transcendent climax. Have you heard John Cameron Mitchell and Yo La Tengo doing this song a few years back? You should definitely hear it.
Lou Says (2000): When you’re underground or alternative, nonetheless your record’s coming out on a corporate label, or an independent and then it’s bought up by a corporate. And you get absorbed. It’s unavoidable. On the other side of the coin, generally speaking, no-one until they started putting stickers on records gave two shits what we said on these things, they didn’t listen to them. No-one listened to the Velvet Underground records, no-one said, ‘You can’t have a song about that.’ They couldn’t stand listening to our records, they couldn’t get past three notes! Then when it came to me, they said, ‘Well, he’s always like that, y’know, there’s no point in talking to him, he’ll never change.’ So I became like The Lou Reed Section, you know what I’m saying? ‘There’s The Lou Reed Section, it’s over there; what a mouth on him!’ Then you get adjectives like ‘depraved’, all this stuff that … you’re trying to write about adult themes that are in novels all over the place, and yet because you bring out a record, it’s like, ‘Depraved Underbelly Of Dark’. It’s actually very, very, very funny. So then, becoming an elder statesman for the alternative thing, what’s that? It’s nothing. What I’m interested in is people getting what’s on the record. I mean, I don’t make these to stack in a closet. That’s it.