Picks and Pans Review: New York

updated 02/13/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/13/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

Lou Reed

If you crossbred Leonard Cohen with Neil Young and raised this scary progeny in Coney Island, he'd probably sound a lot like Lou Reed, the singer-songwriter who has been a major figure on the New York music scene since his tenure in the Velvet Underground in the '60s. Reed's forceful new album offers up rancid little slices of life in Nueva York. He presents a stultifying environment of welfare hotels, armed crack dealers, unswimmable beaches, child abuse, corrupt politicians and ozone depletion, amongst a litany of other horrors. On "Halloween Parade," Reed uses the annual costume pageant in Greenwich Village to mourn all the colorful characters and carefree attitudes that have become victims of AIDS. Throughout this pessimistic morass—which Reed urges you on the jacket cover to listen to in one sitting—are sprinkled the names of the new breed of celebrity dunces like Bernhard Goetz and Morton Downey Jr. On songs such as "Good Evening Mr. Waldheim" and "Strawman," he widens his scope beyond the gutters of New York to take in all society. Reed runs it all down for you in his diffident, seen-it-all, three-note voice. Most of the arrangements and melodies are fairly stunted. While "Busload of Faith" and "Dirty Blvd." do rock out, this harrowing portrait of contemporary life makes for a less-than-cheery if pointed song cycle. We're not used to pop musicians making such an unflinching appraisal of the world. Reality, eh, Lou? What a concept. (Sire)

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