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Game of Two Halves
on 3 January 2003
If it were not possible to turn a record off after you'd started listening to it, this record would be worth two stars. Had only the first eight songs been included, it would be worth five.
New York starts out so effervescently, it's impossible to credit how badly it loses its way. Lou Reed's overall approach is fantastic - get a bunch of guys in a room, flip the "record" switch, and play - don't even turn the tape off between songs (yes, it's true: New York carries on the honourable tradition of intra-track amplifier buzz).
And for half an hour, this works just fine, because the material is up to it: Romeo Had Juliette - well, the title says it all -is raw, brutal and vital. Dirty Blvd is the same. The socio-political undertone, while undeniably there, is still an undertone: understated enough not to get in the way of the rock 'n' roll. This suits Reed's socio-political ends, too, because while you Get The Point, the music Still Sounds Tough.
For a while. The first sign that everything might be about to go off the rails is There Is No Time. Suddenly Reed's patented, nonchalant chic delivery - you know, the half-spoken drawl - is gone and he literally bellows out the lyrics, which comprise some of the most knuckle-headed sloganeering you're ever likely to hear (Hey, Lou: bonus points for getting the word "circumlocution" into a rock song. Not.) Is Lou being ironic, you wonder? Sure hope so.
But no. After a brief reprieve, the original musical focus is jettisoned completely in favour of dud invective of the sort only "serious" rock musicians of the eighties could issue with a straight face. And there the album remains, dignity gone, to the point where you wish someone would take it out and shoot it, for its own good.