Saturday, September 1, 2012

Lou Reed 25: Ecstasy

Capping a decade that basically returned him to more actual than mythical status, Lou hit the studio with the same team that been in place for the last album and tours. Ecstasy combines new songs about troubled relationships with ideas left over from the Time Rocker project for a difficult listen, dark even for him.
The mood isn’t immediately obvious. “Paranoia Key Of E” is based on a catchy riff, and just about when the words start to ramble, horns kick in and he begins to have fun with the different keys of emotions. The same two chords drive “Mystic Child”, and he didn’t write a melody past the title. At first “Mad” would seem like a slower version of the same structure, except that he actually changes chords and takes the character of an a-hole pissed off that his partner was caught cheating. The horns come back for a nice counterpoint. Jazzy chords provide inspiration for the title track, though Fernando Saunders’ bass is more intriguing than the lyrics.
Things start to go off the rails in “Modern Dance”, wherein he actually rhymes moon and June in a litany of a love letter despite the decent backing. “Tatters” is in the same melancholy mood, but doesn’t feel like you’re reading somebody’s mail. So it’s a big jolt to switch over to “Future Farmers Of America”, a novel, shall we say, view of slavery in American history, before going back to the conversational “Turning Time Around”. “White Prism” (rhymes with “jism”) starts furiously, but then settles back into the same basic beat, cramming “indentured servant” into a lyric alternate submissive and domineering.
The final stretch is a test of endurance. “Rock Minuet” has promise, a lilting waltz of imagery out of Burroughs and the opening section of “Street Hassle”, while Lou overdubs dissonant guitar and Laurie Anderson adds more musically sympathetic violin. Driven by an acoustic guitar for a change, “Baton Rouge” concocts an apocryphal autobiography of one (or both) of his divorces, redeemed by the “so helpless” chorus. Then there’s “Like A Possum”, eighteen minutes of the same two chords as slow as anything on the album while Lou repeats the same “shocking” lyrics. Critics compared it to “Sister Ray”, but at least that evolved and stayed interesting due to the interplay. This one builds too, but only in terms of the drums; many will reach for the skip button, while others will opt for eject. However, they’d miss out on “Rouge”, a brief instrumental interlude for electric violin (guess who) and the almost triumphant closer “Big Sky”.
That tune especially recalls the similar summation on The Blue Mask, which dealt with similar themes and balanced tender moods with assault. But even without “Like A Possum”, Ecstasy is way too long and way too monotonous. Every writer needs an editor, and woe betide anyone who dares to tell Lou what to change.

Lou Reed Ecstasy (2000)—

No comments:

Post a Comment