Sunday, December 22, 2013

My Year in Music: 2013 Part 2 (or how I learned to stop worrying about variety and re-love Pop-Punk)

Here ya go! My top 25 albums of 2013!! I wrote a lot of it either drunk or hungover so I hope it makes sense! (If you missed part 1 here's a link.

25. The Flatliners: Dead Language

I had never listed to the Flatliners before Dead Language was released but I feel like I;ve been missing out on some real good stuff. The albums second half isn't as strong as the first but wow, the first half is fantastic!

24. Monster Magnet: Last Patrol

Psychedelic stoner metal is not usually my genre of choice but Monster Magnet rock so hard and are weirdly intriguing enough that I found myself listening to Last Patrol a whole lot more than I would have ever imagined. 

23. Alkaline Trio: My Shame is True

My Shame is True is Alkaline Trio's best album since 2003's Good Mourning. Clever lyrics, sing along melodies and a dark streak have been the bands repertoire since they started but it's been a while since they all came together in this enjoyable of a fashion.  

22. North Mississippi All Stars: World Boogie is Coming
The Dickinson brothers have been making great southern boogie for a long time and World Boogie is Coming may be their best offering yet. Featuring a lot of delta blues legends and with no stabs at contemporary sound, NMAS have made a great southern roots rock album. 

21. The Suburbs: Si Sauvage

The other legendary Twin Cities band to release new music for the first time in over a decade, did so with a fine output of danceable adult pop. Si Sauvage lacks a lot of the weird jittery new wave that made The Suburbs 80's albums so memorable but when it comes to aging gracefully, these guys have done it very well.

20. Gov't Mule: Shout!

Gov't Mule have been making rock solid hard rock for almost 20 years and Shout!  is as good of an album as you'll find from them. Warren Hayes' voice and guitar are both in fine form throughout and his songwriting is an equal match. The bonus guest star portion of the album is interesting but doesn't hold up as well as the original. High quality stuff.  

19. Jetty Boys: Let 'Er Rip!

Let 'Er Rip sees the Jetty Boys continue to develop their brand of pop-punk while mixing in some stabs at hardcore. It's hard to label an album that features songs like "Wasted in the Basement" and "Forever Dumb" as mature but Let 'Er Rip is a step forward for the band.

18. Steve Earle & the Dukes (& Duchesses): The Low Highway

A new Steve Earle album is always a welcome addition to my collection and The Low Highway does not disappoint. Mixing in straight forward rock ("Calico County," "21st Century Blues") folk (Burnin' it Down") New Orleans inspired jazz ("Pocket Full of Rain") and country ("Love's Gonna Go My Way"), Earle navigates us through life in troubles times but leaves the door open for a bright future.

17. Portugal, the Man: Evil Friends

Although it's a bit uneven, the high points of Evil Friends are awesome. "Creep in a T-Shirt," "Modern Jesus," "Hip Hop Kids" and "Holy Roller (Hallelujah)" are all among my favorite songs of the year. Danger Mouse's production does wonders for most of the tracks making this one of the great indie rock albums of the year. 

16. Parquet Courts: Light Up Gold

If you mixed up the Velvet Underground, early Pavement and the Strokes, you'd get something resembling Light Up Gold. That's not to say that Parquet Courts are just the sum of their influences. "Master of My Craft," "Stoned and Starving" and "Borrowed Time" would all stand up well beside the best of those bands work. This is an excellent album of high energy indie punk.

15 (tie). Broncho: Can't Get Past the Lips

This is technically a couple years old but got a nice wider release this year and without that I would have never heard it. It's a short collection of uptempo punk and well done indie pop. It's also completely addictive.  

Masked Intruder: Masked Intruder

This came out in 2012 and while I heard it then, I certainly did not appreciate it. A year later and while some of the issues I had with Masked Intruder (gimmicky, too soft) are still there, the albums hooks and energy won me over. The band is also a lot smarter than I had originally given them credit for. Some people say this is the best pop-punk band putting out music right now and while I don't agree, they're pretty damn good.

14. Grant Hart: The Argument

Loosely based on John Milton's Paradise Lost, Grant Hart's double album The Argument is easily the most ambitious solo work the former Hüsker Dü member has put forth to date. It's the least easily accessible album on this list but the rewards are very high as well. There are still plenty of straight forward pop songs ("Far From Heaven," "Morningstar," "Letting Me Out," "(It Was a) Most Disturbing Dream") for the casual listen but The Argument works best when taken as a whole over multiple listens.

13. Off With Their Heads: Home

Off With Their Heads 3rd full length album of dark, melodic hardcore is the bands most accessible yet in terms of pop songwriting but the lyrics are as downcast as ever. The result is a surprisingly uplifting affair. If singer/songwriter Ryan Young's life sucks so bad maybe mine doesn't. (JOKES!!)

12. The James Hunter Six: Minute by Minute

The latest superb soulful rock album by Hunter expands the bands name to give credit to all the members of the backing band. It's a well deserved act but this is still James' show. His Sam Cooke like vocals have become deeper but still convey emotion as well anyone's. The title track is masterful.

11. Civil War Rust: The Fun & the Lonely

I have no clue why these guys aren't a bigger deal in the national punk scene (maybe they are, I'm too old to know any better) but they damn well should be. The Fun & the Lonely is a fantastic pop-punk album, full of hooks, energy and passion. Try listening to "Whipping Star," "Seven Down" or "Walking Down Ward" and not singing along at the top of your lungs. It's virtually impossible.

10. Pearl Jam: Lightning Bolt

Lightning Bolt continues Pearl Jam's streak of fantastic albums (starting with their S/T 2006 album). It isn't quite as strong as the last few due to being a bit long but their mix of punk fury ("Mind Your Manners," "Getaway" ) beautiful ballads ("Sirens" "Sleeping By Myself") and everything in between ("Infallible," "Swallowed Whole" "Let the Records Play") still works and Eddie Vedder still sings with tons of passion. There isn't a better straight forward hard rock record that was released this year.

9. David Bowie: The Next Day

BOWIE!!! The Next Day's cover art makes it look it will be an album reminiscent of his experimental late 70's work but in reality it's a excellent modern sounding alt-rock album. Between "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)," "Valentine's Day" "How Does the Grass Gow?" and the title track there's uptempo rock aplenty and Bowie's voice carries the ballads ("Where Are We Now?," "You Feel So Lonely You Could Die") to just as great of heights. The Next Day is Bowie's best album in a long, long time. 

8. Dan Vapid & the Cheats: Two

Dan Vapid has been in so many pop-punk bands over the years it's nearly impossible to list them all. The Cheats are the first one to list his name in the title and their second album is every bit the equal to last years debut and holds up with the best of his catalog. "I'm A Contrarian" "Live It Down," "I Wanna Go to Machu Picchu Before I Die" and "Invader" are great uptempo punk while ""Miracle Drug" and "Cold and Rainy Days" are pop gems. The closing "A Long Way" is a successful ballad and leaves the listener wanting more. I would have no complain if Vapid kept up his one album a year pace.  

7. John Paul Keith: Memphis Circa 3AM

If you like roots rock and you're not familiar with John Paul Keith, you are doing it wrong, Memphis Circa 3AM is another outstanding collection of sun records influenced rock ("You Really Outta Be With Me" "Baby We're A Bad Idea" "True Hard Money"), smokey bar room shuffle ("We Got All Night," "Walking Along the Lane"), weeping honky tonk ("Ninety Proof Kiss") and pure pop bliss ("Everything's Different Now," "If You Catch Me Staring"). When it comes to creating simple pleasures in music, very few people are doing it as well as John.

6. Less Than Jake: See the Light

Less Than Jake has been struggling to make great music for the last decade but See The Light finds them re-hitting all the sweet spots that made them one of my favorite bands in the ska heyday. It's a great mix of punk, ska and reggae with varying tempos and hooks galore. I don't know if being back on Fat Wreck has re-energized them or if they just got their groove back but no matter what, seeing the light has paid off ina big way.   

5. Kurt Baker: Brand New Beat

You want to hear some great power-pop? Then here ya go! Brand New Beat is a nearly perfect collection of guitar based pop. You'll be singing along in no time to uptempo rock like "Partied Out," "Hit the Ground," and "Weekend Girls." While the jangle of "She Can Do It All" is timeless. Throw in few winning ballads ("How Many Times," She's Not Sorry") and Kurt Baker has made one of the most enjoyable albums of the year. It might not be deep but it's a helluva good time. 

4. Superchunk: I Hate Music

I Hate Music finds Superchunk branching out into darker and more varied territory than on their previous album Majesty Shredding but the results do not suffer in the least. "Overflows," "Void," "Trees of Barcelona" and "FOH" are all vintage indie-pop punk and with the glorious "Me and You and Jackie Mitoo" Superchunk have given us the best song of the year. It's impossible to hate this music.

3. Bad Religion: True North

I thought the days of awesome Bad Religion albums had passed but then they go and record True North, AND TOTALLY REDEEM THEMSELVES!!! "True North", "Past is Dead," "Robin Hood in Reverse,"  and "Nothing To Dismay" are vintage Bad Religion. "Dharma and the Bomb" is one of their best mid-tempo tracks in recent memory and "Fuck You" is definitely the best Bad Religion song of the last decade. This didn't get great reviews but for the life of me I can't see why.

2. Queens of the Stone Age: ....Like Clockwork

It took me a while to fully embrace this album then just ....Like Clockwork (don't worry, there won't be any more of these) it all hit me and I fell in love. "I Sat By The Ocean," and "If I Had A Tail are the kind of slinky rock QOTSA excel at. While "My God is the Sun" is a balls out rocker. Josh Homme uses his falsetto to with great results on a large number of tracks. It's not an immediately accessible album but ....Like Clockwork is well worth putting in the required effort. 

1. Jason Isbell: Southeastern

Ever since Isbell released Southeastern in June it was pretty obvious that it would be my number 1 album of the year. He's been releasing amazing music both solo and with the Drive By Truckers for well over a decade but nothing else he's done has been this personal and emotional. It's those qualities (along with Isbell's voice and guitar obviously) that give country/folk tracks like "Cover Me Up." "Traveling Alone" "Elephant" and "Relatively Easy" their weight. "Flying Over Water" and "Super 8" are fine rockers that help give the album balance. This is music that is meant to be really listened too and the rewards are outstanding. It might not always bring a smile but it's incredibly moving and enjoyable. I can't say enough good things about it.

For anyone interested here's a link to a Spotify playlist with many of my favorite songs from the year.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

My year in music: 2013 (part 1) THE EXCITING LIST PORTION OF THE RECAP!!!

Usually I do a top 50 list every year. I generally go into detail on all 50 but frankly I don't have the time and I didn't obsess over music like I have in the past. Must be growing up I guess. Anyway here's a bunch of albums I heard once or twice on Spotify that seemed good but I didn't give much time to.

Snuff: 5-4-3-2-1... Perhaps?
Jim James: Regions of Light and Sound
The Bronx: The Bronx (IV)
Eric Clapton: Old Sock
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: Specter at the Feast
Mudhoney: Vanishing Point
The National: Trouble Will Find Me
Mavis Staples: One True Vine
Nine Inch Nails: Hesitation Marks
Okkerville River: The Silver Gymnasium
King Khan & the Shrines: Idle No More
Two Car Garage: The Death of the Self-Preservation Society
Paul McCartney: New
Mark Lanegan: Imitations
Nobunny: Secret Songs: Reflections From the Ear Mirror
Deltron 3030: Event II
Get Dead: Bad News
Polar Bear Club: Death Chorus
Reggie and the Full Effect: No Country for Old Musicians
My Bloody Valentine: MBV

If I was gonna make a detailed top 50 these would be albums 26-50. I present them in arbitrary list form.

50. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Push the Sky Away
49. Iggy and the Stooges: Ready to Die
48. Arcade Fire: Reflektor
47. Robert Randolph & the Family Band: Lickety Split
46. Deer Tick: Negativity
45. Blitzen Trapper: VII
44. Son Volt: Honky Tonk
43. Dawes: Stories Don't End
42. Old Man Markley: Down Side Up
41. Mike Cooley: The Fool on Every Corner
40. Frank Turner: Tape Deck Heart
39. Billy Bragg: Tooth and Nail
38. Dr. Dog: B-Room
37. Tedeschi Trucks Band: Made Up Mind
36. Streetlight Manifesto: The Hands That Thieve
35. Swingin' Utters: Poorly Formed
34. Motorhead: Aftershock
33. Elvis Costelo & the Roots: Wise Up Ghost
32. Camper Van Beethoven: La Costa Perdida
31. The So So Glos: Blowout
30. Night Marchers: Allez Allez
29. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts: Unvarnished
28. The Shouting Matches: Grownass Man
27. Black Joe Lewis: Electric Slave
26. Meat Puppets: Rat Farm

Just so I don't do an entire post without pictures here are three great compilations and my top 5 E.P.'s of the year.


Bob Dylan: Another Self Portrait (1969-1971) The Bootleg Series Vol. 10

The 10th volume in Dylan's long running bootleg series is a great look at the creative process Bob was going through when making such oddball choices as his first self-titled album and the underrated New Morning. Like all Bootleg albums, this is for the hardcore and converted fan but it's a very rewarding listen for those of us that qualify.

Songs For Slim: Rockin' Here Tonight: A Benefit Compilation For Slim Dunlap

When Twin Cities rock and roll mainstay and former Replacement Slim Dunlap suffered a massive brain stroke it was only natural that the TC music community would step up to help with the costs of long term medical care. What was surprising was the level of national recording artists that stepped up and contributed to the cause. Not to mention it being the impetus for the long awaited Replacements reunion. The songs included here all consist of Dunlap covers and are all of a very high quality. This is one of the biggest must own albums of the year due to the music and where the profits are going.

Fat Wreck Chords: The Songs of Tony Sly - A Tribute 

Another example of a great cause and some great music going hand in hand. When Tony Sly died last year he left behind a wife and daughter. Tony wrote great songs and this tribute collects a lot of amazing artists to cover them with the proceeds going to help support the family Tony left behind. Any fan of punk rock should have already picked this up.


3. Motel Mirrors: Motel Mirrors

John Paul Keith is a personal favorite under the radar musician of mine and his side project team up with Amy LaVere is a great little collection of country based duets.

2. Lucero: Texas & Tennessee

 The continued evolution of Lucero from rock band to soul outfit may have reached it's peak on these 4 tracks. Ben Nichols' voice is well suited for these stripped down songs of lost and breathless love. I'm very excited to see what direction the band goes in next.

1. The Replacements: Songs For Slim

The Replacements releasing new music and reuniting for live shows was easily the most exciting musical news I heard all year. While I was unable to attend any of their Riot Fest appearances and anxiously await a full tour, this 5 track E.P. is a great addition to their catalog. It's mostly just sloppy covers but the spirit of the Replacements has been as important as the actual music (if not more so) and in that regard, it's a smashing success.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ranking the Albums: The Guest Post Lou Reed Edition

EDITORS NOTE: I didn't write this but since this blog hasn't been active in quite some time and my good friend Mr. Tyler Mills, the biggest Lou Reed fan I know, took the time to recap his solo career I felt compelled to re-post it here. 

Alright, so this is the final bit of commentary I'll post in the wake of Lou Reed's passing. Obviously all four of the Velvet Undergrounds albums are essential listening for any true music fan, but what about his dizzyingly erratic solo career? Well here's my rankings.... From worst to best.... #22 to #1:


Mistrial - 1986

This album is further proof of my theory that every big musical act from the 60’s and 70’s went to hell in the 80’s.  Lou Reed fell for every trap that entailed being relevant in the 80's. Big drums, synthesizers, super slick production, all of it. And this coming from the fella who pioneered white noise, dangerous themes, and non-feel-good music in the 60's! Generic and uninteresting, Mistrial takes the bottom spot for Lou Reed solo albums. But don't let this entry dissuade you from checking out the other write-ups. Remember, this is the worst in a 22 album spanning solo career. It get's better folks! But if you want to see for yourself the awfulness of Mistrial..... here ya go. I mean, good god, it's a middle aged Jewish man rapping. Somehow gave it three stars. don't trust that rating.


The Raven - 2003

The Raven was Lou Reeds tribute to Edgar Allen Poe. I remember being excited to buy a brand new Lou Reed studio album when this came out, and then being severely disappointed when I heard it. Lou Reed was always an "artsy" guy in a certain sense, but in this case, artsy meant boring songs (with totally weird guest vocalists) mixed in with people the likes of Steve Buscemi reciting Poe Poems. Basically Reed was trying too hard to be cultured and artsy, and it's a failure in my opinion. gives it three and a half stars. Don't trust that rating either.


Lulu - 2011

Lou Reed's strange collaboration with Metallica. Sounds cool / interesting right? It's not. Basically what it is, is Metallica playing subdued Metallica riffs with a crazy old man ranting nonsense over the top of it. Don't believe me? Listen to the link below. Honestly, It's possible that this album doesn't deserve a rank this low. I've only listened to it once. But that should say something about it. Again, gave it three stars. Maybe it deserves that meek rating, maybe it doesn't. "I AM THE TABLE!" ....fuck that.


Hudson River Wind Meditations - 2007

It's weird meditation music (like Paul McCartney's "Zen"). Not music that you want to listen to in most circumstances. But I'll give it a higher rank since it's not meant for regular listening. I dunno, I don't meditate. Maybe it's awesome for meditating. Don't worry, the list get's positive in just a few entries.


Metal Machine Music - 1975

Musically, this album should be at the very bottom. Its' not music. It's noise. But the reason for this albums existence is so spectacular that I can't put it below the previously mentioned ones. There’re a few theories regarding why Reed made this monstrosity.  One is that back in the 70s' Lou Reed hated his fans. His previous band the Velvet Underground expanded the soundscape and literary boundaries or rock while still intermixing sweet love songs and pop music. Now, his fans wanted to watch him get wasted and embark on a drugged out death trip. After his commercial offering of "Sally Can't dance", this is what he did to them. ....for an entire album. HAHAHA! Also, he was (admittedly) really high when he made it, so that could have something to do with it as well.  Another is that it was a big middle finger of a contract filler to his current record company.  The last is that he was serious about it, but (as I said earlier) was just really really stoned.  It’s most likely a bit of all three.  In the liner notes he wrote “Anyone that makes it to side four is dumber than I am”.  So obviously he didn’t put it out thinking that ANYONE was going to like it.  Don’t record companies listen to, and have some say in the albums released on their label?  It’s actually kind of amazing that this was even released.


Growing Up In Public  -  1980

The album that broke Lou Reed into the 80’s.  A year earlier he’d released an album (The Bells) that was considered an artistic comeback or sorts (Coney Island Baby and Street Hassle weren‘t artistic?).  And then came Growing Up in Public.  The Bells seemed ultra-serious, where as Growing Up in Public seemed scattered and …. Well, I actually don’t remember it that well.  I remember the title track being fun, but that’s about it.  Anyways, this was Lou Reed’s first album since he quit drinking like a fish and pumping drugs into his arms.  And of course, as is almost always the case, you wish that he’d just get wasted and make an album…. Cause it pretty much sucks.


Songs For Drella - 1990

Lou Reed reunited with John Cale for this minimalistic artsy-fartsy tribute to Andy Warhol. boring. gives it an almost perfect rating (four and a half stars). maybe I'm a simpleton. I give it two and a half. Three at best.


Legendary Hearts - 1983

FUCK! I forgot about Legendary Hearts. I don't like Legendary Hearts all that much. It was considered Lou Reeds "artistic-comeback part II (being compared to The Blue Mask… apparently Lou Reed had a lot of artistic comebacks)". Meh, you’re not missing anything by skipping it. I enjoyed his drugged out stuff from the 70's a lot more. "The Last Shot" is good though.


Lou Reed  -  1972

Lou Reed’s first solo album.  As exciting as that sounds, it’s about as mediocre as it gets.  Most of the songs are remakes of VU tunes that were never released (the VU versions ended up being released in the 80’s on two “lost tracks” albums, and their lack of polish only helped them).  There’s a few new worthwhile tunes here and Lou still sounds young and fresh (his lifestyle didn’t allow that to be for long).  Goin’ Down is a nice song.  Berlin is good, but was done better on his 3rd album (of the same name).  Wild Child is Reed on Dylan, which is pretty cool.


New Sensations - 1984

New Sensations was Lou Reed being happy go lucky (an interesting turn from his pissed off 70's era). It gets bogged down by a lot of the typical 80's problems, but there's enough feel good upbeat songs here to make it worthwhile. The opening track "I Love You Suzanne" is catchy as hell, and a few of the other songs let go of the turmoil that was Lou Reed's life and let him have a good ol' time with the album.  About half of it translates.


Magic and Loss - 1992

Finally things start to get interesting. I don't love Magic and Loss, but there are some solid tunes on here, and the concept is interesting. The entire album is Reed's medetation on dealing with two friends dying of cancer. with that in mind, it's not nearly as depressing as you'd think it'd be. Even a few of the album's lesser tracks have some interesting concepts about them lyrically. This is a fun track from his "my friends are dying of cancer" album! (What's good? Not much at all...)


The Blue Mask - 1982

 Lou Reed's "Artistic Comeback"! It's a solid album with interesting song writing and good guitar work. It's tones range from the blistering title track, to the haunting "The Gun", to the rocking yet introspective "Underneath the Bottle". "Heavenly Arms" is probably one of the most romantic things this old crumudgen ever put to paper. There's some filler, but it dodges the typical 80's pitfalls, so that's good.


Rock and Roll Heart - 1976

Considered by to be Lou Reed Lite (compared to his earlier 70's work), Reed was getting away from his typical 70's themes but still had his 70's instrumental flourishes. There's plenty of saxophone and keyboards on the album, but they don't tend to be cheesy. Rock and Roll Heart is underrated. Musically there's a late-night feel abound, and lots of clever wordplay to match (both claims exemplified certainly in the tounge-in-cheek "A Sheltered LIfe"). And then the album throws a bone to Reed's past by ending on the minimalistic and dark "Temporary Thing".  Part of the reason this gets a higher rank than Blue Mask is because on Blue Mask Reed is trying to write deep and meaningful poetry.  Again, that’s all well and good.  On Rock n’ Roll Heart however, he just sounds like a cool guy.  And let’s face it, that’s a big part to Lou Reed.  He’s supposed to be an ultra hip New Yorker.  And this album portrays that.  Yeah!  That’s right bitches!  I put Rock and Roll Heart over The Blue Mask!  C’mon n’ say something’ bout it!  P.S.  …he’s never taken dope and he’s never taken drugs……… (Uh Huh…. Sure Lou).


Set the Twilight Reeling - 1996

Here's the thing about STTR. It's a fun and pleasant listen. There's really not a bad song in the bunch. In fact, there's a bunch of good songs in the bunch. With that being said, unfortunately people expect something out of Lou Reed (if they studied the VU albums, they wouldn't) and what that is, is they expect him to shock them. There's nothing really shocking here (except for one particular track which isn't so much shocking as it is purposefully profane). It kicks off strong with Reed's memories of hanging out at soda fountains, and moves to a beautiful and poetic tune about NYC (with a lovely horn backing). The rest of the album deals with mature emotions and concepts of adult relationships, and its' all very nice.  Old man Reed’s last album of the 90‘s. There’s a couple of duds, but for the most part this is catchy and mature songwriting.  That being said, is "very nice" what you want from a Lou Reed Album? Hmmmm.....  Should you expect something else from a man nearing his 60’s?


Sally Can't Dance - 1974

Alright, here we go.... Sally can't Dance, according to, was pandered to the "lowest common denominator". Know what? That is absolutely true. Know what else? It's super fun to listen to. Most of us AREN'T the lowest common denominator, so this album acts as a nice little dangerous glimpse into that kind of lifestyle. There's funky horns blaring all around, and all sorts of stories that we'll never live. And despite the fact that Lou didn't really put any of the ensembles together himself (he basically showed up and wrote the lyrics… he was more than a bit strung out at the time, in fact, he even stated once that he barely remembers the sessions for this album) the tunes are catchy. This album is considered among critics to be one of Reed's worst. I strongly disagree.  They pan him on this one because he wasn’t “artistic”.  I say, artistic is great, but so is fun. And despite all the awkward rhymes, you can't deny the touching song "Billy", a tune about a lost friendship due to war. Yes, the rhymes are awful, but the combination of acoustic guitar (by Reed) and saxophone is timeless.


Ecstasy  -  2000

Reed’s first album of the 2000’s was an impressive… and long one (1:17:15).  Yes, this one is ARTISTIC! (unlike #8).  It kicks off on a stones-style rocker to boot!  Ecstasy explores a variety of topics, from city life to mature relationships (again), jealousy, lust, regret, lost love,and how sometimes he feels like a possum (this is 18 minutes of the album, B.T.W.)!  It’s a great mix of songs, with a few up beat rockers like Paranoia Key of E and Mystic Child, a lot of mid tempo introspective songs like the shattering Tatters, as well as Turning Time Around and Baton Rouge, as well as eerie and ominous tracks like Rock Minuet and the title track.  Yes, there’s some skippable tracks (Future Farmers of America…. Ish.  And if you can’t take 18 minutes of filth and feeling like a possum, that one too), but even if you skip a number of tracks, there’s still plenty of worthwhile stuff here.


The Bells  -  1979

In all honesty, I probably listen to #7 more often than I do The Bells.  But this albums was very different than anything that Reed had released up to the time, and a good way to send off the 70’s.  (though it’s almost not fair since this album has 9 songs while Ecstasy has 14).  He hired jazz artist Don Cherry to fill in on most of the tracks, and it was the beginning of him writing songs about a life that is at least somewhat relateable to the masses (I.E.  not about taking drugs and messing around with transvestites). 


Transformer  -  1972

Transformer made Lou Reed a hot commodity, mainly due to the fascinating lyrics and undeniable bass hook of “Walk on the Wild Side” (p.s. that song should’ve never made it on the radio!  It’s all about drug dealers and transvestites, and somehow a lyric about “givin’ head” slipped past the censors!).   Aside from Walk on the Wild Side, there’re bunch of tunes on here that you should have on your ipod.  Hangin’ Round, Wagon Wheel, and I’m so Free should be glam rock staples, and Satellite of Love and Perfect Day are lovely ballads.  Goodnight Ladies plods along with humorous lyrics backed by a trumpet and bass, and closes the album like a  loser stumbling out of the bar at 2:00 a.m.  Of course I’ll link Walk on the Wild here…..


Berlin  -  1973

Berlin….. Lou Reed’s moody concept masterpiece.  This was my favorite album ever back when I was a college boy.  It spins a rough, unhappy, and at times shocking tale of two doomed lovers, and it uses about every instrument known to mankind.  There is virtually nothing happy about Berlin (the one feel-good moment I can think of, the ending of Caroline Says, which is admittedly very beautiful, is crushed within a minute of the next track).  To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, here’s a list of subjects that this album covers:  unfaithfulness, drug abuse (a shocker, I know), spousal abuse, kids being taken away, and last but not least, suicide.  Not exactly a finger-snappin’ toe-tappin’ listen, but it’s very effective.  By the time track 10 rolls around, you feel a sense of relief that it’s all over.  There’s no other album that I know of that’s had that effect on me.  Apparently though, Reed and producer Bob Ezrin just didn’t feel this album was quite dark enough.  So to remedy that, Ezrin set up a tape recorder in his home and told his kids that their mom was dead and taped their cries (or at least that’s the rumor) and then played the recording in the middle of the song “The Kids“.   ……Jesus Christ…………………………….  Maybe Reeds, most emotionally effective album, but if you’re not in the mood for completely horribly depressing songs, then this isn’t the one to listen to.


New York  -  1989

Lou Reed’s artistic comeback!  (the man has had more comebacks than a boomerang).  The instrumentation is catchy, the wordplay is some of Reed’s best, and there’s a concept that ties everything together (the goings-on in Reagan-Era New York).  Every song is a winner, and there’s something here for you regardless of what kind of mood you’re in.  Reed often times is pissed off, and then later free-wheeling.  Cryptic, and then funny.  Poetic, and yet very much down to earth.  …and it’s all rockin’ baby!  It’s a smooth mix of poetic, and straight up goddamn coooool.  Lou practically talks his way through the album, but it’s fine because the lyrics are smart, his messages and feelings on his subjects are crystal clear, and the guitars are great.  So basically what I’m saying is, that hack that you voted for on American Idol can suck it, cause though he / she can sing pretty, they don’t have an original idea in their head, and cause Lou can convey an emotion without getting melodramatic about it.  So there.  “Stick a fork in their ass and turn ‘em over, …they’re done”  -  L. Reed.


Street Hassle

This album is tough as nails.  It starts out with Reed talking to himself while imitating a black dude and basically mocking himself (he calls himself a “fuckin’ faggot junkie” within 15 seconds of pressing play).  Yikes!  The overall sound is murky, which some critics apparently thought was bad.  In my opinion it’s fitting with the tone of the album.  You could not have had Street Hassle and had it be nice and shiny.  It would’ve been stupid.  Most people agree this album is Reed looking inward and being disgusted with himself.  Track 2 is called Dirt, and he seems to be singing autobiographically about himself….. And calling himself dirt (cheap uptown dirt to be exact).  Track 3 is an 11 minute track cut into 3 parts, describing a tragedy, how the low-lives cover it, and possibly redemption (?).  Not one for the kids…. Lots’ of bad words and adult situations.  The following track is racial stereotype comedy that you probably couldn’t get away with in this day and age.  And Leave Me Alone is a tough sax backed rocker about, you guessed it, how he wants the low-lives and leaches to leave him alone.  And then in typical Reed fashion it ends in a throw-away track called Wait!  As if he were taking back everything he’d just told us.  This album could possibly be #1 depending on how I’m feeling on that particular day, but track 1, aside from the intro, isn’t that good and the VU remake of Real Good Time Together was WAY better in it’s original form.  That being said, if you feel like getting down and dirty, Street Hassle is the album for you.  This is a good example of what you’re in store for.  Even the album cover is bad ass!


Coney Island Baby  -  1976

It’s hard for me to pick a definite number 1 Lou Reed album.  Mostly it depends on the kind of mood I’m in.  That being said, choosing Coney Island Baby for the top spot was a tough decision.  There’s not a bad song on the album.  It’s probably Reeds most accessible and consistent album.  The melodies are mostly catchy pop songs (it‘s kind of the solo career equal of the VU‘s Loaded).  Lou still sings the vocals, (albeit in his cool stoney drawl) and sounds healthy.  Charlie’s Girl is a toe-tapper that you can’t help but sing along to, and Crazy Feeling seems like Lou’s take on a Buddy Holly song.  The most lovely track on the album, the beautifully romantic doo-wop inspired title track was absolutely hated by his record company (one executive called it the worst thing he’d ever heard).

And that’s all part of it.  The album is great accessible cool rock music, and the story of it’s creation adds to it’s success.  Reed was at the height of his drug abuse when this came out, yet he managed to string together enough healthy days to give it a good clean sound.  In the biography “Transformer” it was noted that during this time, Reed and his gang,  (who regularly slept on the floor at his apartment in NY) would boil pills and inject the byproduct to get high.  When they’d come down, they’d reboil the pills, and inject to get high, but would also get kind of sick.  Then when they came down again, they’d re-re-boil the bills, inject the byproduct,  …..and just get sick.  At one point Reed’s producer found him during the sessions collapsed in the bathroom crying. 

If you get the special edition version of C.I.B. this becomes very apparent via the demo tracks that are included.  Reed’s voice sounds hoarse and sick.  The 34 year old Reed sounded like he was a 50 year old throat cancer patient.  But alas, he was able to overcome his turbulent life, defy the record executives, and release (in my opinion… sometimes) his finest album.  The extended tracks on the special edition also offer you one of Reed’s most fiery rockers (that is available nowhere else) Nowhere At All, the dark and seedy roots of a song that would appear on his next album Downtown Dirt (renamed simply Dirt), and a rough, off the collar take of the title track. 

To summarize:  Coney Island Baby takes the top spot for it’s catchy freewheeling uptempo melodies, accessibility, and backstory.  ….And if you don’t like this (below), then there’s just something wrong with you.  Seek help.

…and don’t forget, this is the song that the record company wanted to keep off the album……

So that’s it!  Do you disagree with me on one or more of the rankings?!?  Too bad.  I know more about this dead son of a bitch than you do, so what I say goes…..