Lou Reed Stephen Holden - Essay

Stephen Holden

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Hail hail rock and roll! And hail Lou Reed for getting right back to the essence of what it's all about….

This almost perfect album [Lou Reed] has ten cuts—all of them containing some of the grittiest rock sounds being laid down today. It is skeletal rock—sexy, pimply, crude and sophisticated, all at the same time….

Just as arresting as Reed's voice are his lyrics, which combine a New York street punk sensibility and rock song cliches with a powerful poetic gift. On "Lisa Says," Reed sings, "Lisa says hey baby if you stick your tongue in my ear / Then the scene around here will become very clear." That says as much about raw sex as any two lines I can think of in rock literature. On "Wild Child," my favorite cut on the album, [the lyrics are an example] of Reed's brilliantly offhand incisiveness….

Reed's tunes, which are based on the cliche phrases of Fifties teen laments, are inconsequential but endearing as sung in his lost adolescent's cracked voice. His artistic self-awareness, however, is so secure that he invariably turns less into more. For he not only awakens nostalgia for Fifties rock, he shows that it is still a vital resource for today's musicians…. The overall impression is that of a knowing primitivism, as serious as it is playful, and never less than refreshing. Listening to Reed is not only a pleasure, it is a lesson in how to make first-rate rock and roll music. By keeping close to the roots he is keeping the faith.

Stephen Holden, "Records: 'Lou Reed'," in Rolling Stone (by Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. © 1972; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Issue 109, May 25, 1972, p. 68.