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4.2 out of 5 stars12
4.2 out of 5 stars
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The Blue Mask has stood the test of time very well in Lou Reed's oeuvre and is amongst my top 5 Reed albums. The varied material takes us from domestic bliss in My House ("I've really got a lucky life/My writing, my motorcycle and my wife") to extreme emotion and paranoia ("I cringe at my terror/I hate my own smell/I know where I must be/I must be in hell") which is a near perfect description of a panic attack. In a way, this album returns to many of the themes that had inspired Reed from the start of his career with the Velvets: His mentor, poet Delmore Schwarz is invoked in the opening track, reminding the listener of the Velvets's European Son (to Delmore), while Underneath The Bottle, an account of his struggle with alcohol, brings to mind an earlier song The Power Of Positive Drinking from the album Growing Up In Public, and the beautiful Heavenly Arms with its gorgeous fading choruses is not too far removed from Satellite Of Love on Transformer. But the approach is different: gone is the decadent narrator of the demi-monde, and instead Reed turns into an essayist or reporter writing and singing with great maturity but still passionately about subjects as diverse as women, gun violence and the day John Kennedy died. The guitars of Reed and Quine, the bass and the drums work perfectly together, whether on the slow numbers or on the more intense rockers like Waves of Fear or the title track. Best of all, the melodies are strong and memorable and the arrangements are innovative. The Blue Mask is excellent in every way!
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The Blue Mask from 1982 has passed the test of time with flying hues of blue. The varied material takes the listener from domestic bliss on My House which is also a tribute to the poet Delmore Schwarz ("I've really got a lucky life/My writing, my motorcycle and my wife") and the long, slow rumination titled Women, to extreme panic and paranoia ("I cringe at my terror/I hate my own smell/I know where I must be/I must be in hell") on Waves Of Fear.

Musically, the first four tracks follow a mid- or down-tempo rock ballad pattern. Then, the feedback on the title track introduces a maelstrom of edgy drumming, roaring and squalling guitars and Reed's intense delivery of a dark, oedipal rant about punishment and pain. There's up-tempo driving rock on Average Guy, a majestic melodious wall of sound of Waves of Fear, a tender, yearning ballad about John Kennedy and the tuneful, stirring love song Heavenly Arms.

This album revisits many of the themes that had inspired Reed from the start of his career with the Velvet Underground: His mentor, Delmore Schwartz is invoked on the opening track, reminding the listener of the Velvets' European Son (to Delmore), while Underneath The Bottle, a harrowing account of a struggle with alcohol, brings to mind an earlier song The Power Of Positive Drinking from the album Growing Up In Public, whilst the beautiful Heavenly Arms with its gorgeous cascading vocals is not too far removed from Satellite Of Love on Transformer.

The approach is different, however: gone is the decadent, sometimes snarling narrator of the demi-monde, and instead Reed turns into an essayist or reporter writing and singing with admirable maturity but still passionately about subjects as diverse as women, gun violence and the day John Kennedy died.

The guitars of Reed and Quine, the bass and the drums work perfectly together, whether on the slow numbers or on the more intense rockers like Waves of Fear or the title track. Best of all, the melodies are strong and memorable and the arrangements are innovative. The Blue Mask is a true masterpiece.
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#1 HALL OF FAMEon 18 April 2002
'The Blue Mask' is overlooked compared to the popular 'Transformer' or the critical ressucitation that was 'New York'. I feel it is as good as 'NY'- though with less of the political stream of consciousness. This was recorded by a regernerating Lou Reed- who was cleaning his act up- I think it is his most concise album since 'Berlin'. The albums between had moments- 'Street Hassle', 'Coney Island Baby', 'Kill Your Sons', 'The Shot'- but were either badly produced or put next to filler (sometimes both...). Whatever- Lou's songwriting improved drastically and this was the result- an album that I think stands well next to the classic Velvets albums or the later works of genius: 'NY', 'Songs for Drella', 'Magic & Loss', 'Set the Twilight Reeling' & 'Ecstasy'.
Dennis Feranti helped develop the guitar sound that Lou theorized in those interviews with Lester Bangs and here Robert Quine (ex-Voivoid & recent compiler of Velvets live recordings 'The Quine Tapes')delivers the best foil to Lou guitarwise since Sterling Morrison.
The songs are great- light & heavy- reminding you of Stephen Malkmus solo album or The Strokes- 'Underneath the Bottle', the title track & 'Waves of Fear' are fairly gruelling. While the elegies of 'My House'(for Delmore Schwartz-'European Son') & 'The Day John Kennedy Died' (Lou's 'Warmth of the Sun')predict future songs: 'Dime Store Mystery', 'Hello it's Me' & 'What's Good?'. The ghosts of 'Metal Machine Music' are put to waste here- this was Lou's album where he looked to the future (in fact 'Average Guy' looks to his awful/brilliant pop single 'I Love you Suzanne' and his not-un-Billy Joel-like 'Rock'n'Roll Heart'!).
I think 'The Blue Mask' is one of the finest albums of the Eighties and one of the best records Lou has produced. With all the Hives and Strokes fans on a retro kick- I wonder if they will discover this excellent album?
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on 7 November 2013
Musically near-perfect - the Quine/Saunders-driven line-up is the best band Lou ever played with bar The V.U. after all - but lyrically patchy, The Blue Mask is a curiously over-rated album (especially by middle-aged American rock critics) but definitely not an out-&-out "bad" one.

Personally, I prefer Legendary Hearts - released the following year & recorded with Quine & Saunders again - but a composite of the finest dozen songs from both albums would undoubtedly be one of Lou's finest EVER.

Highlights: "The Gun" (one of his most powerful post-V.U. songs), "Underneath The Bottle", "Waves of Fear", "The Heroine", "Heavenly Arms", & the searing title track.
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The Blue Mask has stood the test of time very well and remains amongst my Top 5 Reed albums. The varied material takes us from domestic bliss on the track My House ("I've really got a lucky life/My writing, my motorcycle and my wife") to extreme panic and paranoia ("I cringe at my terror/I hate my own smell/I know where I must be/I must be in hell").

The album revisits many of the themes that had inspired Reed from the start of his career with the Velvets: His mentor, poet Delmore Schwarz is invoked in the opening track, reminding the listener of the Velvets's European Son (to Delmore), while Underneath The Bottle, an account of his struggle with alcohol, brings to mind an earlier song The Power Of Positive Drinking from the album Growing Up in Public, and the beautiful Heavenly Arms with its gorgeous fading choruses is not too far removed from Satellite Of Love on Transformer.

But the approach is different: gone is the decadent narrator of the demi-monde, and instead Reed turns into an essayist or reporter writing and singing with great maturity but still passionately about subjects as diverse as women, gun violence and the day John Kennedy died.

The guitars of Reed and Quine, the bass and the drums work perfectly together, whether on the slow numbers or on the more intense rockers like Waves of Fear or the title track. Best of all, the melodies are strong and memorable and the arrangements are innovative. The Blue Mask is a true masterpiece.
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on 16 June 2014
A bit of a slow grower of an album, with only a handful of immediately memorable tracks, but rewards on repeat listening, as his ever pithy lyrics work their way into your brain via his always cynical & world weary voice. It could only be a collection of musings on life by the incomparable Lou Reed.
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on 23 January 2016
Lou's 1982 album isn't his best but certainly in his top 3. This record takes a few listens but it resonates long and true and is an essential part of any Reed collection.
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on 8 February 2011
I first came across Lou Reed in 1980 with his 'Rock and Roll Diary 1967-1980'. I was 15, I was impressionable and I fell in love. I consumed his solo output (with the exception of the first one and 'The Bells' that I just couldn't get on with) and went to see him on the New York tour and then again on the 'Magic and Loss' Tour. The less said about the latter, the better for its cringe making pretensions felt like a personal betrayal and I stuck around only long enough to be disappointed by 1995's 'Set the Twilight Reeling' at which point I baled out and have bought nothing of his since. If his recent Youtube clips are anything to go by, I am glad I haven't bothered for he seems to have taken pretension to a whole new level.

But.

I recently sold all my records to make way for the new baby and needed to replace some stuff onto CD: £11.93 for his first five albums of the 80's was a bargain I couldn't turn down and the other night I sat and listened to them all. Forget 'Mistrial' which is awful. Forget 'Live in italy' which is just him shouting to try and drown out Quine who hated him by then anyway. 'Legendary Hearts' is OK. 'New Sensations' is great and worthy of a review on its own page.

But.

'The Blue Mask' is an absolutely fantastic album. I mean, really, really, really good by any criteria you could apply. It is fresh, frightening, gorgeous, profound, lyrically engaging and sounds like a musician who is actually being engaged by his craft and who is playing with musicians that he actually likes and wants to work with. It is 30 years old and sounds like it could have been made at any points since about 1950: it is a wonderful record that is fully deserving of your time and money.
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on 15 May 2016
Big Fan, buff said.
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VINE VOICEon 6 August 2006
For all the praise heaped on The Blue Mask at its time of release and in the years that have followed it's actually a very patchy affair.

In many ways The Blue Mask was the dawn of a new era for Lou. Lou had cleaned up his act with regard to his habits, he was newly married and was prepared to focus on his music by stripping it of its excesses (its larger sound). Lou went back to basics and even much of his lyric writing was being refined to be more socially friendly. He had a hot new band and re-introduced to prominence his own guitar playing. He had also switch record labels.

The Blue Mask in places represents those changes extremely well. The opening track 'My House' was a great start followed by 'Women' and later 'The Blue Mask' (the title track), 'Waves Of Fear' and 'Heavenly Arms'. All these tracks tend to get their message across with simplicity, cutting right to the core of Lou's talent.

Unfortunately much of the rest of the album is rather uninspiring.

'Average Guy', 'Underneath The Bottle' and 'The Day John Kennedy Died' are far below the standard of Lou's best work and at times these songs lyrics sound incredibly banal.

In The Blue Mask's favour though is the fact it's certainly a lot more accessible to listen to than Lou's two most recent albums The Bells and Growing Up In Public at the time (though not really better).

Don't believe the hype The Blue Mask is no Lou Reed classic but there's enough good songs to make it a worthwhile listening experience.
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