Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Skip to my Lou

Disclaimer: If you can answer "yes" to any of the following questions, you should STOP reading immediately and pretend you never saw this post. I'm serious.

In the next 10 seconds, can you name more than 5 songs by the Velvet Underground?

Was your senior yearbook quote a line from a song off of Lou Reed's Transfomer album?

Do you think that the only music that is worthwhile comes from pale white men from big, cosmopolitan cities (New York) who supplement their vegan diets with coffee, red wine and cocaine?

Do you think Hank Williams and Johnny Cash are overrated?

Is your favorite movie I Heart Huckabees?

Do you find unrelenting beauty and artistic genius in paintings of Campbell's Soup Cans?

Again, if you answered yes to any of these questions, STOP READING NOW!!!! If you continue, you will hate me forever. I won't really care that you'll hate me forever because, well, you and I probably wouldn't have gotten along anyway so this will most likely save us a lot of trouble. But you also might get your feelings hurt, and while I can be a bit of a dick sometimes, I have no intention of hurting the feelings of people I don't even know.

On April 30, 2008 (last Wednesday) I had the opportunity to see Lou Reed in concert. It sucked. It's OK. Take a minute to pick yourself off of the floor, say a few Hail Jimi's to the rock gods for me and collect yourself a bit. In a show that lasted one and a half hours with a one song encore, I knew three songs. Count them. THREE. Sweet Jane, I'm Sticking With You (I only knew cause I remembered hearing it in the movie Juno), and Perfect Day. Now I understand that most artists are going to get sick of playing the same songs over and over, and I certainly didn't expect to hear Walk on the Wild Side or really any Velvet Underground songs (I can't believe out of all of them he chose I'm Sticking With You, and even introduced it as "A song from the hit movie Juno), but I listen to enough music, am a pedestrian enough Lou Reed/VU fan, and have enough pretentious friends that I should have known more than 3 damn songs. And in all honesty, I probably would have been OK with that had every other song he played not sucked more than the previous one. It wasn't until the middle of this show that I realized something, Lou Reed is a pretty shitty songwriter. Yes, I said it. Say another prayer for me.

Well I suppose that's a bit unfair. Lou Reed is an "artist," and by it's very nature art is a subjective medium whose quality is essentially defined and redefined by each individual patron, but from where I'm standing and listening, his songs pretty much blow. Here are some of the lyrics from his opening song, Mad:

Mad, you just make me mad
I hate your silent breathing in the night
Sad, you make me sad
When I juxtapose your features I get sad...

Dumb, you're dumb as my thumb
In the wistful morning you throw a coffee cup at my head
Scum, you said I'm scum
What a very lovely and feminine thing to do.

To me this sounds like something some artsy dude wrote for his Intro to Poetry class. I understand that on some level it might be cool to combine simple forms like "You're dumb as my thumb" with "In the wistful morning," or "When I juxtapose your features," but the bottom line is that it just sounds stupid, and being that music is (or at least should be) an auditory artistic medium, if something sounds bad, then it is bad. In fact, at one point during the show I looked over at the young lady that I was accompanying to the show (who was also MUCH more disappointed by the show both because she liked Lou Reed much more than me and because she paid for the tickets) and said, "You know there's a fine line between Lou Reed and Wesley Willis." While I admit that comparing a Rock Legend to a paranoid schizophrenic modern day minstrel/freak show (no offense is intended here, but because Willis's fan base was essentially college frat boys who laughed at him instead of with him, it's sadly no less true) is a stretch, I truly find more art in schizophrenic stream of consciousness blathering than I do in a seemingly intelligent man's purposeful pomposity. It seems to me that Willis's music is an outlet for him to keep his schizophrenic demons at bay, while the Almighty Lou Reed is essentially trying to be overwrought and weird just for the sake of being overwrought and weird. At this point I think I'll take I Whupped Batman's Ass over Ecstasy any day of the week.

Before I close I'd like to also add that I had the unbelievable pleasure of seeing Levon Helm (The Band) about a month before Lou Reed and I have already moved it into one of the top 3 shows I've ever seen. He played just as many Band songs as he did solo songs, and the solo songs he played were great. He interacted with the crowd, joked about his former drug use, and the crowd loved him and was dancing in the aisles the entire time. At the Lou Reed show I got the distinct feeling that the crowd was ready to explode with anticipation of such a "great" artist, but never really got the opportunity. Sure most people at the show walked out saying how wonderful it was, but I can't help but think that was only because they didn't want to be the only ones who thought it sucked. Well just know that I'm standing up for what must've been hundreds saying it sucked and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

You are free to begin telling me how stupid and ignorant I am. I'll be too busy rocking out with Levon Helm to care.

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