Listen Up: Wednesday, January 23, 2003
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Lou Reed

The Raven (Reprise Records)

By Ken Shimamoto

Lou Reedís had the collective rock crits of the world kissing his ass and proclaiming his every release ďhis bestĒ for so long that heís started believing it himself. Especially since he reinvented himself as an Artist with a penchant for revisionist history (ďI was never gay/on junk/perverted, it was just a personaĒ). But when he is at his best, heís still the master of psychodrama, idiosyncratic romanticism, edgy guitar rock, and melancholia, all rendered in a street-smart literatiís voice.

Lou at his arty-est always gives his listeners More, even if itís more of precisely what they donít want: the four precisely timed 16-minute sides of unlistenable white noise on 1973ís Metal Machine Music, another two LPís worth of insults, vitriol, and spleen directed at his audience on 1978ís Take No Prisoners. Heís totally outdone himself this time; The Ravenís two c.d.ís clock in at longer than two hours.

The album is the soundtrack to a theater piece based on the works of Edgar Allen Poe, originally commissioned by the Thalia Theatre in Hamburg. Which means a large chunk of it is, uh, spoken word, read by the likes of Steve Buscemi and Willem Dafoe (as if to prove there are creepier guys than Lou in Noo Yawk City), Elizabeth Ashley, and Amanda Plummer, to music by Lou. Louís band is augmented with horns, strings, David Bowie, Ornette Coleman, and the Five Blind Boys of Alabama. Hal Willner, that most cinematic of record imagineers, co-produced, and his stamp is all over this.

How you respond to this disc will depend a lot on how you feel about 1) spoken word, 2) Poe, and 3) Lou. An interesting listen, surely, but it really doesnít have much to do with rock íní roll, if that still matters. Think of it as Lou Reedís NPR album.


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