Lou Reed Jim Cusimano - Essay

Jim Cusimano

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

After the frustrations and relative failure of Berlin, his magnum opus, you'd think that Reed would sing of something people and critics could identify with, like the surging cost of toilet paper. Instead, Sally Can't Dance continues Lou's fascination with death and decay in the civilized underground of his youth, primarily through what sound like Berlin outtakes. If Sally is a commercial success, Lou will have orchestrated the greatest irony of his irony-loving life. (p. 79)

Sally is not simply an anthology of outtakes, however, and not all the numbers with the feel of refurbished oldies recall Berlin. With its bestial menage a trois, "Animal Language," shorn of its funk, is reminiscent of "I Can't Stand It" from the first solo album. And "Billy" … belongs to another time entirely. Apparently, Lou never throws anything away….

For the first time in years Lou has made an album without the help of some obvious talents like Bowie, Ezrin or [guitarist Steve] Hunter. The result is so safe, tidy and danceable that this tarnished genius might find a place once more in the Top 40. The possibility that, say, "Baby Face," a tune which documents the sleazy meanness of a perverse affair's finish, might be engraved on the minds of this country's youth by millions of radios to sell Big Macs and Clearasil, almost boggles my mind. (p. 80)

Jim Cusimano, "Records: 'Sally Can't Dance'," in Crawdaddy (copyright © 1975 by Crawdaddy Publishing Co., Inc.; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), January, 1975, pp. 79-80.