Tuesday, December 2, 2008
the best post-VU record
our latest gift to the blogzaphere is our crack staff's attempt to find the best solo record made my a member of the velvets. as nico and cale left before the band ended, we start from their moment of departure.
we start with the newest member of the GIHYB crew, liveoakblues:
lou reed, berlin
Before describing why I chose "Berlin," I'll let you in on the additional criteria I gave myself for this choice. No compilations of any kind (Lou's consistently inconsistent studio albums would nevertheless provide for a Greatest Hits package I would put against anyone's, so that's cheating); nothing recorded before 1971.
"Berlin" is simply the most devastating album I have ever heard. Nothing even comes close, nothing by Pink Floyd (who always tried too hard), nothing by Elliott Smith (whose music becomes devastating in its connection to his biography). In college, I'm not kidding when I say I do not think I listened to this record once without the aid of drugs. By choice, I have not listened to it in years, and certainly not since becoming a father.
It is also a masterpiece and easily Lou's most consistent record (the quasi-concept album form helps this). The arc from euphoric romance to darkest tragedy is brutal and determined, each song more unforgiving than the last. By the time the listener gets to "They're taking...her children...away/Because they she said she was bad mutha" the day, nay, the week is ruined. When "Sad Song" rolls around it is a fait accompli and the listener is left with how to get out of the fetal position.
Some have said Lou dips into melodrama with "Berlin" but I say hell no...he earns every damn bit of the emotional power this album produces. Those who want redemption in their music need to look elsewhere. This record offers none. What it does deliver in spades is the kind of beautiful darkness that he threatened elsewhere.
As much as I like John Cale's post-VU work, it doesn't approach Lou's. In fact, I've often wondered how much someone would truly dig any of Cale's albums upon first listening, if they did not know it was John Cale.
A very good case could be, by the way, for Mo Tucker's, "I Spent a Week There" but it's not a disc that "endures."