Lou Reed - Coney Island Baby

Lou Reed - Coney Island Baby The 90s was the decade of record stores stocked with CDs, and a staple in all these stores (Specs, Tower, Sam Goody, and Peaches — where I spent three years) was a cutout bin of $5.99 reject discs of unknown provenance. Lou Reed discs were always legion in these bins. I suspect because the “serious” music fans who were buyers for the stores and controlled the distribution networks in the late 80s and early 90s were all Reed fans and created an overinflated demand. Also, Lou Reed released a lot of albums in the 70s and 80s, and apparently the idea that there would be a fair number of completists of this body of work was uncontroversial.

Well, I was a self-professed Velvet Underground fanatic, and so for awhile I was snatching these up on a regular basis. (I learned my lesson after a half dozen or so purchases of mediocre Lou Reed product.) But there is a diamond in that particular rough — 1976’s Coney Island Baby.

The greatness of the particular album is not attributed to any guise of genius. It’s the obvious result of the drug-induced indifference that we now recognize fueling so many 70s albums by the Rolling Stones et al. Lou Reed, backed up by a roster of session musicians who were competent but not particularly hip to his vision or musical past, puts in no more effort than anyone would have expected (note: he was averaging two albums a year during this period). Yet in all this indifference, a sort of accidental magic happened. The music is easy-rocking, almost country, with modest flourishes of weirdness at the margins. Imagine a drug-addled and burned out Reed trying to get these rut-stuck musicians to engage in the experimentation of the Velvets (imagine, also, the talk that producer Godfrey Diamond must have gotten from RCA before the sessions, this being the followup to Metal Machine Music, and even Lou was explicity asked to “go make a rock album”). So Reed got the eccentric specifics he requested — washes of cymbal here, accelerating tempo there — but the basic tracks are straight down the middle.

The songwriting is something else alltogether. There, Reed did exactly what he pleased. And boy were the muses smiling on him. Every single song on this album, on closer listen, reveals something profoundly fucked up. Let’s just quickly run them down:

Posted: Thursday May 7, 2009 by Alesh Houdek · · Comment feed for this post: RSS, atom



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