Rockbrat Wonders: Is Lou Reed The Most Overated Perfomer in Rock ‘n’ Roll?

Lou Reed - the most overated of 'em all ?

Few artists polarise the opinions of discerning rock fans quite like Lou Reed. Some say he’s a musical genius, others think he’s over rated and boring – or musically misunderstood. After listening to his recent ‘Lulu’ collaboration with Metallica however, (which some of the ultra hip reviewers praised beyond belief) I’m left in no uncertain that he’s WAY overrated. The Lulu collaboration has to be the worst piece of s__t I’ve heard in years. Whilst the cool musical thinkers will disagree and nod approvingly at this recent collaborative effort in musical experimentation – I’’ll tell you that it’s nothing but NOISE, and to use a Mr. Rockbrat term, ‘hard listening’. Nothing wrong with Metallica collaborating with other artists, but why Lou? He can’t sing in key, he warbles though songs, sheesh I dunno. Metallica now equates to Metallicash, and without the hunger for success, they have the luxury to fart around in the studio and experiment with sound – but with ‘Lulu’, boy, did they get it wrong. The kids wanna hear stuff like ‘Master Of Puppets’ or For ‘Whom The Bell Tolls’, not 10 minutes of self indulgent experimental dross. Take the world’s most successful metal/hard rock bands like AC/DC, Maiden, Priest etc. Know why they are so successful? Cos they don’t play around with the formulae too much, simple. Nothing wrong with collaboration, but why Lou? Why not an artist who at least can sing in key? Sure, Lou is good with lyrics, but Zimmerman he ain’t. So let’s throw a little objectivity into this exercise, cos as a rock fan, I do think that some of Lou’s work has merit. The early 70’s stuff in particular, at the cusp of the NYC glam/drag scene was OK, although to make the point balanced, Lou was around at the right time. He’s a song writer who writes simple songs, yet I can do without his vocalised attempt at singing. I guess overall, he ain’t that interesting. I have a Johnny Thunders bootleg some place where Thunders announces to the crowd that, “Lou Reed is the most boring person I ever met”. I think that statement has some element of truth to it. Lou is what, 70 years of age now ?

"and the coloured girls go exit light enter night"........Photo Courtesy:

In the late 60’s he was principal songwriter of The Velvet Underground, a band who had little commercial success, but achieved cult status as the darlings of the hip NYC Warhol scene, with Warhol as mentor. Of the Velvet’s stuff, ‘White Light / White Heat’ is a classic. Fact, as is ‘Sweet Jane’. Lou wrote about drugs and gender issues – a theme he continued with his early 70’s albums. “Walk on the Wild Side”, is considered a classic, and to be fair, it does have its place. His 1972 album Transformer’ was a blue print for a lot of the NYC punk bands that came along not long after, (consider though that that great Ronno and Klaus Voorman play on the album – both non New Yorkers) but Walk On The Wild Side’ sounds dilapidated nowadays. It may have shocked folks in the bible belt in the early 70’s with its lyrical content, but nowadays? Lou was at the right place at the right time. In the mid to late 60’s and early 70s’s NYC was a haven for music and art and cultural change. Yet me thinks that ‘Transformer’ would prove to be Reed’s commercial and critical pinnacle In 1975 he released a double album of feedback loops, Metal Machine Music, upon which Reed later commented, “No one is supposed to be able to do a thing like that and survive.” Some called this experimentation pure genius, others ? – Pure adulterated self indulgent crap. When punk hit NYC, Reed was dismissive of it and rejected any affiliation with it. “I’m too literate to be into punk rock… The whole CBGB’s, new Max’s thing that everyone’s into and what’s going on in London — you don’t seriously think I’m responsible for what’s mostly rubbish?” No Lou – that you ain’t. I dug the tune ‘Dirty Boulevard’ too, so what’s that, ‘Transformer’ and a handful of other Lou tunes. His career in recent years moved into musical versions of Tai chi. So, there you have it. Is Lou one of the most overrated of all rock n roll performers? Does he deserve the legendary status? I think not. Some good tunes – but in 2011 with Metallica? Retirement beckons Lou……

2 thoughts on “Rockbrat Wonders: Is Lou Reed The Most Overated Perfomer in Rock ‘n’ Roll?

  1. 30 years ago Metallica formed.
    At that time Lou Reed was assisting in destroying Kiss’ career with The Elder.
    Three decades later Lou is at it again.

    of course the hipsters at NME would be praising this new album with Metallica. Not cool man to trash someone iconic like Lou Reed !
    Thunders called it correct.

    If Metallica are keen on throwing their money away – I’ll send them my paypal address.

  2. I never really liked Metallica. I personally find that all their music sounds the same and leaves me uninspired. When Lulu was released, I was pleasantly surprised to see a one trick pony band like Metallica perform a vivid, dark, scary, emotional album with Lou Reed. However, I can’t say that the album was perfect. It was way too long and there was a lot of filler. It really sounds like the group recorded a bunch of tracks and decided to put them all on the final record without making a careful selection. It is also important to say that Lou Reed was the front-man, so it was a Lou Reed album. This singer is infamous for experimenting with sound and having mixed results. I mean just try to listen to Metal Machine Music for more than a minute, it is simply unbearable. However, this album probably inspired many drone/experimental artists such as Merzbow or Wolf Eyes etc… so it is truly memorable. I strongly believe that Lulu filled a niche in the musical world and that’s why the NME staff was strongly excited. It’s true that the execution could have been better, but that does not imply that the album deserves to be called excrement because it does not sound like Master of Puppets. That infuriates me.

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