Lou Reed Stephen Demorest - Essay

Stephen Demorest

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

I liked Lou's last album, Coney Island Baby, for its integrity, combativeness, and character, but Rock and Roll Heart flashes none of these qualities. Lou promised this would be a rock 'n' roll album, but I call it stuff 'n' nonsense. For the most part, these tracks are merely notations for songs, unfinished sketches of ideas that are pretty stale anyway. Unlike Coney Island Baby, this collection sounds almost completely insincere; how suddenly he forfeited that self-assured conviction. It's the record of an artist out of touch with his core, so he clowns around instead—anything to entertain, eh?…

"Banging On My Drum" sounds like a warmup for [the New York Dolls's] "Personality Crisis," and the words make [the Ramones's] "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue" seem deep by comparison. "You Wear It So Well," drenched in the sarcastic ooze of Berlin, rings truest to Lou's conflicted persona, but he dodges developing any storyline or character. "Ladies Pay" is a decent dockside soap opera rocker that challenges the emotional depth of [Alice Cooper's] "Only Women Bleed."…

Somewhere in the "creative" stage, Lou abandoned this LP. Lyrically, there's no exploration of any topical stuff like, say, illicit love nests of the Yankee bat boys, or a gay look at the New York police riots, or Lou's highs from snorting the ashes of burned legal contracts.

Sure, this may be yet another perverse joke he's pulling to goof on anyone's expectations. Some people, who consider Lou Reed's career a comic spectator sport anyway, think this album is hilarious. Yeah, it's so funny I forgot to laugh.

Stephen Demorest, "Records: 'Rock and Roll Heart'," in Creem (© copyright 1977 by Creem Magazine, Inc.), Vol. 8, No. 8, January, 1977, p. 58.