Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Lou Reed 18: Mistrial

After a mild hit single with “I Love You Suzanne” and even a track on the fairly commercial White Nights soundtrack (the just-okay-but-still-cool “My Love Is Chemical”), compounded by the mild increase of interest in the Velvet Underground, one would think Lou Reed would be poised for a smash hit album. But that’s just not how Lou rolled.
Mistrial had a funky-fresh sound for 1986, with big programmed drums, popping bass and yes, lots of guitar. The title track is promising, but it foretells the sameness in most of the arrangements, compounded by his failure to find melodies for each of the songs. “No Money Down” was a single, not helped by a Godley & Crème video depicting an animatronic Lou tearing his face off. (I mean, we always suspected he was a robot, but…) “Outside” is merely a list of conditions contrasted with those on the “inside”, and could use some editing, a melody, and less monotony. The sentiment of “Don’t Hurt A Woman” is sincere, but it comes off as an assignment for an anger management class; the same could be said for the much more aggressive “Spit It Out”.
“Video Violence” and “The Original Wrapper” are early stabs at what would one day be astute comments on the state of America eventually, but that was a way’s away. The former is as ugly as the scenes he describes, while the latter, besides beating the joke to death, simply goes by to fast for us to comprehend what the hell he’s saying. “Mama’s Got A Lover” is a clever scenario for a change, and deserves a more sympathetic arrangement. “I Remember You” is even less convincing than Bob Dylan’s underwhelming song of a year before, and the quasi-“Sweet Jane” chords that don’t change at all don’t help.
Not until the last track is the album nearly redeemed. “Tell It To Your Heart” is a tender love song, with vocal help from new buddy Rúben Blades. But ultimately, Mistrial is a misfire. He kept his profile high by joining Amnesty International’s Conspiracy of Hope tour, alongside the likes of U2, Sting, and Peter Gabriel, but he was about to take his longest vacation yet.

Lou Reed Mistrial (1986)—2

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