The ’80s were a bad time for so many musicians, so many people got talked into making their records sound “contemporary” which rendered those records horribly dated to later audiences. I don’t think I ever imagined Lou Reed would be one of those musicians and certainly none of his other ’80s work that I’ve heard really lets on all that much that it was recorded in the ’80s, though it does here and there. But this record, this is an ’80s record.
Sometimes producing reed to shit works – two of my favourite Reed records (Transformer and Berlin) are arguably produced in ways that shouldn’t suit Reed or his songs. But though both of those records arguably sound very ’70s, they aren’t dated by their elaborate arrangements quite so much as this record is. I’d also argue their arrangements are more tasteful and make more sense, but I recognize that this is a personal preference thing – I prefer glam rock to whatever this sound is.
It’s a decent set of songs for Reed. There pretty consistent, though I don’t think any of them quite rank among his very best. On the other I’m not sure there are any here among his worst either, so that parts good.
Reed’s music, though, is dressed up, with a gospel choir (I know!), with brass sections (not a first for him but featuring some players known for schmaltz), with ’80s music cliches like electric violins and production that makes traditional instruments sound electronic. (The effects on Reed’s guitar even sound ’80s at times!) This leads to an incongruity, as you might imagine, where we have Lou Reed speak-singing over a very slick backdrop.
I can’t pan this – the songs are strong enough that it’s okay. But it really isn’t something I enjoy listening to, and it’s just another reminder that sounding contemporary isn’t everything.