Lou Reed Joel Vance - Essay

Joel Vance

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Lou Reed is touted in some quarters as a serious artist, but there is nothing on ["Rock and Roll Heart"] to support such a fantasy. He seems deliberately mediocre and dull. He is an anti-musician, much as his mentor and former employer Andy Warhol (from their Velvet Underground band association) was an anti-artist and anti-film director…. Reed's monotone vocals and non-songs are considered deceptively simple statements with deep underlying meanings.

The truth is that Reed and Warhol are, consciously or unconsciously, con men. Like all con men, they hold their victims in contempt and their pleasure comes in seeing just how gullible their audience can be….

Since he is an anti-musician, it is impossible to judge Reed on the basis of music. Sample: on three of the selections here, the titles of the tunes are the only lyrics, and they are repeated over and over to the accompaniment of a not more than competent band. It would be comforting to dismiss him as a rascal, but that cannot be done. Even as a con man he has no flair, and his contempt for his audience is ugly.

Joel Vance, "Popular Discs and Tapes: 'Rock and Roll Heart'," in Stereo Review (copyright © 1977 by Ziff-Davis Publishing Company), Vol. 38, No. 2, February, 1977, p. 101.