Thursday, December 27, 2007

Lou Reed's Street Hassle

Lou Reed survived the seventies, something that many people didn’t expect. Judging from this performance in the early 70s in Paris, you can’t blame them. During that time he had a big hit with "Walk on the Wild Side", which is probably the coolest song to ever make it to the top of the pop charts. And on that same record, called Transformer, you can find "Perfect Day", which is just brilliantly beautiful in a very classical sense. Lou Reed did his best to get of this Glam-rock image with Berlin, a little piece of art not the be listened when depressive. And any artist who is able to release a record like Metal Machine Music, his automatically a legend in my book. Not to mention this 2006 performance at a late night show, where he keeps a straight face while a person is practising Tay-chi during his performance. An artistic expression, or is he just probing how far he can go with his audience (of dumb sheep)? Whatever his intentions may be, he is definitely one of the coolest, best and original artists out there.

Street Hassle is one of Reed's many records released in the 70s, and belongs on the top of this pile. Maybe only for a single (but very long) reason: The contrast between the noise and the beautiful.

It all kicks of with "Gimme some good times", with a dialogue between the star and a fan. It's a cynical song giving commentary on the rock 'n roll lifestyle that is expected from him. Judging from the way he performs it, he does not agree with these expectations. It sounds ugly and dirty, nothing like the rock 'n roll glossiness from his earlier records (great!) . "Dirt" has the same kind of feel to it. Here he dumps a load of crap on persons without any principles, of which one is his former manager. The instruments intentionally stumble at certain points, creating a rhythm that is pretty hard to grasp. It almost gives a bit of a free/jazzy feeling to it. Lou keeps them on track with his brilliant rant.

"We sat around the other night, me and the guys. Trying to find the right word. That would best fit and describe. You people like that. That no principle has touched, no principles baptized. How about that. They'd eat shit and say it tasted good. If there was some money in it for them".

This "Dirt" is followed by "the beautiful": "Street Hassle". It's a story about a girl who pays for a boy. They slip away and make love, high on drugs. The next morning he wakes up, and prepares himself to leave. "Neither regretted a thing".

But the next morning: "Hey, that cunts not breathing". The owner of the motel considers the boy responsible. He advises him to just slip her away. The owner doesn’t want to deal with the cops asking difficult questions. He comforts the boy by saying that it there was probably nothing that he could have done, "But when someone turns that blue. Well, its a universal truth. Then you just know that bitch will never fuck again". Why doesn’t he just lay her out on a dark street, where she`ll just be another hit 'n run? His heart crushed (cause there seemed to be some real love between the two of them), he begs and prays for his baby not to slip away.

This is all guided by a beautiful string section which continues to play the same line through out the song. The three sections of the song each have there own distinctive sound though, mainly thanks to Lou Reed's brilliant "emotionally charged" vocals. Towards the end of the song guitars are added, and it starts to get a bluesier feel to it, as the situation becomes more dire. Bruce Springsteen even joins in to say the final words about her near the end. Reed's heartbreaking plea at the end sounds incredibly real, and marks the end of the first side of this record in great style.

Side two starts with "I wanna be black". A little ditty which is impossible to release in the 21st century. Main theme is that he doesn’t want to be that ordinary boring white college student anymore, but black. For all the wrong reasons. "Real good time together" starts of as a hypnotic song. Mainly thanks to the tremolo effect on the guitars. Is this what it's like to have a real good time together with Lou?

The dirtier sound of the first two tracks on the side one is back with a vangence. "Shooting Star" is one of the songs recorded live for this album, which kind of creates an interesting contrast with the studio tracks. It's not a really memorable song though. "Leave me alone" departs from this average level by adding saxophone to it, and some very "piss-off" lyrics. It is a very straightforward song, but nice to listen to. "Wait" ends the record on a much friendlier and cleaner note. It almost sounds like an apology for the abuse of the songs preceding it. "Wait, I really wouldn't want your hate". Ok Lou, we’ll forgive you.

But only because you produced something as brilliant as Street Hassle, which has the same length as those four relatively forgettable rock `n roll tunes on side number two. Together with Dirt and Gimmie some good times, Street Hassle finishes of a first half which is pretty much perfect. Starting at I wanna be black however, Lou starts to stumble, with the last two songs bringing a bit of original listening relief. And although this does not sound too positive, for Street Hassle alone this album is worth the purchase and your time.

Friday, December 07, 2007

It's time to do `em right!

One of my best buys this year must be the first record of the B-52's.. Everybody knows them from the song "Love Shack" and maybe their performance in the Flinstones movie with John Goodman. Love shack might be a good song, but let me tell ya, this yellow cover holds a record with a lot of great tunes!

One side one, where one gem is followed by another gem, it all kicks of with Planet Claire. It DOES sound a bit like that Peter Gunn theme, but then off beat, with a touch of mystery surrounding it. Schneider kicks in with his trademark voice: "She came from planet claire. I knew she came from there. She drove a Plymouth Satellite. Faster than the speed of light." Can it get any trippier than this? I especially like the guitar-parts in this song, which later come back even better in "Dance this mess around". Ricky Wilson created these, and therefore I like his style.

52 Girls is the anthem of the b-52's, with Kate and Cindy passing by in the lyrics as the principle girls of the U.S.A. The song has an addictive quality to it, and within no time you're singing the lyrics with them. It sounds like a song that would be a great choice at any party. The same counts for "Dance this mess around", which is my favorite on this record. It starts as a slow song about a relation on the verge of destruction, where she gives you a last chance to think it over..

The next three lines are full with true emotion, which she even manages to transfer into a live performance. After that the song goes a few gears up, to the point where it is impossible to sit still. With slightly absurd lyrics containing all 16 dances, you start to notice that this band was only created for one reason: To have fun! And do you notice the guitar? It is almost out of tune, but somehow, it isn`t, and fits perfectly in the band's sound. I think this part of the B-52's early sound extinguishes itself from later hits such as "Love Shack".

You can continue dancing your mess around during "Rock Lobster", another great party song which is even crazier than the three preceeding it. Did you ever see a rock which wasn`t a rock, but a rock lobster? Or boy's in bikini's? Girls in surfboards? Bakin' potatoes, bakin' in the sun? And a Bikini Whale sneaking from up your back? Does it really matter? Nah..LET'S ROCK!

If you have still the energy, you can now flip the record over to side two. "Lava" contains some romantic tensions between the two behind the microphones (like hot lava). It's a bit heavier than the songs on side one, but still has the same weird guitar sound and style. "There's a moon in the sky (called the moon)" lets the spaced out boys and girls sing about their favorite subject besides rock lobsters. Somehow it is not as addictive and strong as the songs before it, it kind of sounds "the same" on an otherwise very original record.

"Hero Worship" has some great vocals, but just like "There's a moon in the sky" it does not really hold your attention for very long. "6060-842" is again a winner though. It's brilliant lyrics and interplay between the three vocals make it a great end to this record. "Operator, what's wrong? I dial stupid number all day long!". There is a nice note on the lower-right corner telling you that "This is an imaginary phone number and any similarities to this number are purely coincidental".

The record finishes with a version of the old Motown song "Downtown", recorded with a live audience(?) It is a great end to a very original sounding record. Especially the first four songs are a joy to listen, dance and scream to. They breath "fun" in every note of music you hear. It should work perfectly at any party. If it doesn't, you`ve got the wrong friends. You should just throw them out together with a few bottles of whiskey to let them drink themselves to death.

Ok, maybe not that extreme, but come on, this is a party record. Anyone who does not enjoy it should just lighten up a bit in life. Agreed?