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Sunday, 2 April, 2000, 14:12 GMT 15:12 UK
CD Review: Lou Reed
Lou Reed
Lou Reed - Ecstasy (WEA)
By the BBC's Nigel Packer

Lou may be getting a bit long in the tooth these days, but anyone awaiting the easy listening years had better not hold their breath.

Ecstasy is filled with the same fear and self-loathing found in his work since the days of The Velvet Underground.

And if Reed himself is now the picture of clean-living respectability, his songs continue to show an unflinching fascination with the seamier side of big city life.

Deadpan yet expresses

It's not the kind of album to win new fans, but then Reed has always played to his strengths rather than the gallery - and anyone with more than a passing interest in his work will find it a compelling and disturbing listen.

The song structures remain strikingly simple - why use three chords when you can get by with two? - while Reed's voice still manages to sound deadpan yet expressive at one and the same time.
Lou Reed
Like A Possum "trawls the depths of despair"
Then there are the lyrics - vivid, poetic and brutally honest - which emerge from each song like a series of snapshots.

This time Reed's chief obsession is broken relationships. True to past form, he shows an unerring eye for probing into emotions which might make other songwriters squeamish.

Like A Possum is the album's centrepiece - a sordid epic which finds him trawling the depths of despair against a soundtrack of jagged, monotonous guitars.

There are more enjoyable ways to spend 18 minutes of your life, but the power and ambition of the song are undeniable.

Resolutely downbeat

It's the biggest downer of a resolutely downbeat album. Yet Reed's underlying humour and the skill of his backing band provide some light to go with the shade.

Modern Dance and Baton Rouge boast sparkling melodies, while the lyrical bile subsides for the album's most delicate song - Tatters.

And looming behind it all is the essential backdrop to any Lou Reed album - the New York skyline.

With the exception of Paul Simon, there are few living songwriters whose work is so readily associated with the place - which makes it all the more unlikely that Reed should sing at one point: "Maybe I'm not cut out for city life."

On the evidence of the past 35 years or so, it's hard to imagine anyone better suited.

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12 Feb 00 | Europe
Lou Reed cancels Austrian gig
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