Out There

Lou Reed

Ecstasy

Last time out, Lou Reed played the sweetheart and crank. Set the Twilight Reeling -- the title felt cozy and not a little defiant: Here's Uncle Lou, growing old and soft, his worn edges now tattered by the warm breeze of middle age and contentment. It was a record about "growth and change," as he told the Dallas Observer in 1996 -- the story of a Long Island child who became a "NYC Man" and how he staggered toward the "Finish Line," only to be born again as "a star newly emerging." Twilight was the product of a man who lived a dozen lives, committed a million "sins," and apologized for none of it, probably because he found it more convenient to deny responsibility. "From my point of view," he said, choking on a laugh, "I woke up one day and found out I was Lou Reed and thought, 'What is all this? How has this happened?'"

Four years later, it's as though Twilight never happened -- or, if it did, it happened to a different guy. Ecstasy shoots us back toward the shock-rock of yesterday, the freaky-deaky sex shit that crawled through the Velvet Underground and emerged, covered in stink, on such records as The Blue Mask and New Sensations. "Different people have peculiar tastes," sang the once and future Coney Island Baby back in the day, and so Reed returns with his hands bound by duct tape and his dick hard from torture. "Two whores sucked his nipples till he came on their feet" -- oh, just guess who he is. A far cry from "I scream, you scream, we all scream for egg cream."

Ecstasy is, more or less, his sick-fuck "comeback" full of sad, stringy ballads about kink and bondage (physical, mental, emotional -- the whole stinking lot) and fragmented, torturous shreds of "metal" about how he's an unrepentant, lovable scumbag. "You love me," he sings, his confreres swinging behind him like an East Village art-rock bar band at last call. "And I cheat on you." Two songs later, he lights into his old lady for showing up unannounced during one of his dalliances: "You said you're out of town for the night / I believed in you / I believed you." Reed should hang with Greg Dulli; they're a perfect pair, always feeling the need to explain what they'll never apologize for.

Still, it's the perfect Reed record: a concept album about love that embraces and strangles the concept. "Some couples live in harmony / Some do not," he groanmoanbemoans. "Some couples yell and scream / Some do not." It's stupid-simple shit, but Reed treats it like some newfangled notion that just blew him in the alley: Love can break your heart, dude. The fact that one song -- "Like a Possum," a tangle of chaos and reverb and dank repulsiveness and absolute beauty -- takes 18 minutes to get to the point is so very Lou.

Robert Wilonsky

 
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