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2 Tastes That Taste

July 4, 2013
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Just found this in the early morning and it put a smile on my face.
http://thetalkhouse.com/reviews/view/lou-reed

One great 20th century crank and genius pop star reviews another from the 21st century.
It’s a match made in pop culture heaven.

While ostensibly about Yeezus like most criticism it’s more about the critic than the subject.
And Lou is a hell of a subject.
If you love Lou (and i do) a line like “But why he starts the album off with that typical synth buzzsaw sound is beyond me” from the guy that pretty much invented noise rock on White Light/White Heat and wrote Metal Machine Music is just classic.
And speaking of Metal Machine Music, we get some awesome gems about that- “When I did Metal Machine Music, New York Times critic John Rockwell said, “This is really challenging.” I never thought of it like that. I thought of it like, “Wow, if you like guitars, this is pure guitar, from beginning to end, in all its variations. And you’re not stuck to one beat.” That’s what I thought.”

Of course Reed focuses mainly on the music of Yeezus and not the lyrics as much. And with good reason. Sonically I agree that Yeezus is pretty amazing. The opening track “On Sight” is a truly great “grab you by the lapels statement of purpose” opening salvo (thank you Daft Punk).
Unfortunately when you base your album on a minimalist sound like this the lyrics better be something great and it’s here that Yeezus fails.
Kayne West was never a great rapper like Jay-Z or Biggie Smalls and his tinny voice rapping the usual tired and true misogyny gets pretty old quick.
The worse culprit is “Blood on the Leaves” where he takes a sped up Nina Simone cover of the great Jim Crow epic Strange Fruit and uses it as just so much backdrop to catalog his first world problems.
And on “New Slaves” Lou calls him on it too- “There are more contradictions on “New Slaves,where he says “Fuck you and your Hamptons house.” But God only knows how much he’s spending wherever he is.”
But Lou is being too kind. Seriously the guy that just over a year ago came out with the hip hop 1 percenter anthem “Watch the Throne” with Jay-Z which was just a laundry list of products so exclusive most of us never even heard of the brand names all set to some pretty expensive samples, to decry that African Americans are slaves to materialism rings more than a little false.

And even the much heralded sonics are nothing I haven’t heard on a Death Grips or Kendrick Lamar record (and yes I know Kayne has much further reach to get these sounds to mainstream ears than those guys ever could).
Yet still there is something that keeps me selecting this CD on my car player. There is some mystery at the heart of it that i think i can crack on repeated listens. That the contradictions and discordant sounds and off the cuff raps and self-love/loathing and sly irony and embarrassing self-obsession and naval gazing and product placement and lack of self-awareness coupled with too much self-awareness somehow get at the truth of modern pop culture and art.

But back to Lou. I gotta admit out of all the countless reviews I’ve read of this record Lou comes closest to getting at it’s heart.
It’s a contradictory mess filled with beauty and a middle finger jabbed in your face and jarring ugly artlessness and lines that just plain fall flat.
It’s disappointing and annoying and insulting and transcendent and beautiful and underground.
And I’m talking about both the album and the review here.
And it could only take one contradictory genius mess to see this in another.

“If you like sound, listen to what he’s giving you. Majestic and inspiring.”
That is one statement about this record I completely agree with. And there is no greater praise you can give any music.

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