From the first Velvet Underground album right up to his extraordinary and brilliant collaboration with Metallica, Lulu, Lou Reed has consistently been expanding the boundaries of what kind of topics can be explored through the medium of rock'n'roll. Here he moves beyond singing about drugs, illicit sex, violence and such subjects to tackle a few of the very big ones, the real taboos- death, cancer, grief.
I've always loved the first ten or 11 songs on this record but felt that he copped out a little in the last couple of more upbeat, rockier numbers, especially in the closing track, Magic and Loss, when he seems to come to terms with and pass on a few wise words about how to deal with senseless loss. To be honest, the lyrics sounded a bit hollow to me. Until I finally got it. You can never make sense of such horrible deaths but to move on in your own life, you have to find whatever formula, philosophy or thoughts will make it possible for you to find your own closure, even if some part of you knows that you are flinching and fooling yourself a little.
Aside from that one misgiving the rest of the album pulls no punches and ranges from the exceptionally beautiful to the extremely painful, from the absurd to the passionate, to the utterly profound. Standout tracks are the heart-rending Magician, the brutally honest Sword of Damocles and the old-fashioned tearjerker, Dreaming.