14 April 2010

Lou Reed Week (Day Three)

(art by gary)
"The Blue Mask" (1982 RCA)
With The Blue Mask, it became apparent that Lou Reed was no longer going to Brownstones, up three flights of stairs. This was a new look even for Lou Reed, the solo artist. In 1982, Lou had married and settled down and in more ways than one. The Blue Mask also paired Lou with second guitarist Robert Quine, former guitar man for Richard Hell and the Voidoids. Now, with a crack band in place Lou put out a hell of a record. One that is borderline dazzling in it's ability to be so on-point and focused. Even Christgau dug this one, using words such as "stirring" and "uninhibited", "controlled" and "precise" in his review.
There's an enamoring quality to this album that is never fully captured on any one song, but is more of a constant throughout the whole thing. Mixtape crowds may as well avoid this joint because this sucker is one singular, solid entity. It has to be taken in whole for it is such a tight composition. "Waves of Fear" has guitar bits that will lift you three feet off the ground, while the title track and "The Day John Kennedy Died" tell stories to say the least. Lou Reed was clean and sober, and handling his shit. At points, he demonstrates a masterful command of everything that is going on. It's coming from his head to the airwaves, but there are no mis-steps in the delivery. Each and every syllable on this record is deliberately placed. It's a marvel at times.
"I love this music very, very intensely. From the day I first heard it on the radio, it changed my life," Lou Reed said that who knows when but it's a sentiment that is still evident on The Blue Mask. This is music made by someone who gives a shit. He wants you to enjoy it, but he's not going to make it easy. You have to take time to appreciate and absorb, but eventually it'll catch.
Suffice to say, that not everyone is going to love this album. There are even some Lou Reed fans who are going to argue the merits of Transformer and Berlin as superior albums, but The Blue Mask features a new Lou character. One who knows more than he ever did before. You may not groove on the down the street with this record, but you leave with a satisfaction that is akin to finishing a massive novel. (Writer's Note: I know that I said the lavish praise would be kept to a minimum for the sake of objectivity, but this album is kind of tremendous on a few levels. Admittedly, it has knocked be back on my heels slightly.)

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