Lou Reed – The Blue Mask

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Lou+Reed+loureedThis is one of those tracks you could cut the vocals out of entirely and still have a compelling rock and roll song. Lou Reed’s lyrics are always very personal; so much so at times their acute subjectivity renders them obscure. What Lou Reed songs seldom are however is boring, undifferentiated crap: a musical impossibility with this lineup.

Longtime collaborator Fernando Saunders (whose characteristic style of play is always reminiscent to me of a distant, hard-working foghorn) combines seamlessly with the colossal drums of Doane Perry (later of Jethro Tull) and gritty, head-bending guitars of Robert Quine.

Quine’s guitars in this song are worth pointing out for their distinctive, prescient filthiness. This song came out in 1982. Heavy Metal in this era –what you might think of as the public avatar of hardness in music– was tinny, synth-driven tripe: more concerned with hair care and advances in Spandex technology than breaking any new ground. The guitar sound Quine produces on this track (and many others over the course of his collaboration with Reed) anticipates the feedback-driven, noise-heavy, guitar-as-assault-weapon arrangements later popularized by Mudhoney, Nirvana, and Tad.

The lyrics are classic Reed: intensely personal; unreservedly confessional in the Catholic sense.

Make the sacrifice
Mutilate my face
If you need someone to kill
I’m a man without a will.

Wash the razor in the rain
Let me luxuriate in pain
Please don’t set me free
Death means a lot to me.


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