Lou Reed Richard Williams - Essay

Richard Williams

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

As far as I'm concerned, ["Lou Reed" is] the album we need most of all right now—the one which takes us above and beyond all the superstar crap and back into music. Or forward into music, because I don't want to say that this is a "back to the roots" album. It's just that listening to it gives me the kind of charge I haven't had in God knows how long.

Velvet freaks (and there are more than you think) will recognise in [the lyrics of "Wild Child"] the characteristic quality of Lou's best writing: what Geoffrey Cannon has pinned down as Reed's journalistic approach…. [His] reportage [is] as evocative as any newsreel.

Thus, for example, he approaches Lorraine, the Wild Child, through other people, and what he talks to them about. Directly, he says almost nothing about Lorraine herself—but by the time the song's over, she's become the most intriguing lady since Nico….

My personal favourite track is "Berlin." Lou's never been there, but uses his knowledge of Nico as a filter for his feelings about the city. The verses have a candlelit night-clubby atmosphere,… while the chorus rocks a little harder and is totally memorable….

The ballads are, in fact, every bit as remarkable as the rockers. "Lisa Says" is as beautifully constructed as "Berlin" (and even more enigmatic)….

The piece-de-resistance, the big production of the album, is "Ocean," which is the album's equivalent of "European Son (To Delmore Schwarz)" (from the Velvets' first LP) in that it tries hardest to take you furthest. It's an insane trip, glimpses of suicide from a Big Sur cliff….

This, then, is the new Lou Reed, and it could well do for him what "Every Picture" did for Rod Stewart. No kidding—it's great rock 'n' roll, any old way you choose it.

Richard Williams, "Lou Reed: Then and Now," in Melody Maker (© IPC Business Press Ltd.), May 13, 1972, p. 17.