In which the Velvet Underground remind us that in NYC, the so-called Summer of Love was more about coolness and shadows and shiny boots of leather than the hippie sh** that was so popular elsewhere. Music so driven, angular, dark that it made you want to grab a whip and get to cracking it in time. Based on a rather pivotal 1870 novella of the same name that explores themes of sadomasochism and dominance, it hits like a wrong door, the kind you open without really thinking about it, but once you have, whatever’s going on in there – it has you, it won’t let you go. Which perhaps begins to explain how it ended up being used to sell tires.
The title track from Television’s Marquee Moon is such a monster that it’s easy to forget the rest of the album, none of which is remotely average. Friction makes the list for the title alone, being such an apt description of the Television sound — that shrill, gleaming thing that happens when you rub two other things together that maybe you shouldn’t, and then you rub them a little harder and it gets even better, tearing a hole in the reality barrier that can never be fully mended, and a good thing too.
A reminder from that strange place and time when the band known as Genesis weren’t just considered cool and relevant, they had the keys to the underground. In fact, they had a whole concept album about the place called The Lamb Dies Down on Broadway wherein a Puerto Rican street punk named Rael gets caught up in a local apocalypse (like a fly on a windshield) and next thing he knows, he’s trapped in dense labyrinthian depths that will take him the better part of four sides of vinyl to reconcile. In other words, it’s the early Genesis at the absolute peak of their ambitions (if not their attainments) and Peter Gabriel’s final album with the band. Though both would go off to achieve mega levels of success on their own, neither would ever again come close to the sheer weird edge cutting heights (depths?) they achieved with the The Lamb.
“1981 was a pretty brilliant year if you were an open-minded Clash fan. Between London Calling and Sandinista, they’d just released ten sides of ever expanding, sometimes superlative vinyl in barely more than a year. So when Radio Clash (the single) appeared in four different versions, all dubbed up and dance floor ready, there was no reason to doubt what was being promised. Hell yeah! Their next move would be to launch a pirate satellite so the world would finally have all cool radio All The Time. If you’d dropped enough of the ole lysergic, it felt very possible.” (Philip Random)
In which Allen Ginsberg drops in on the Clash during the Combat Rock sessions, the mike gets opened and he slam dances Metropolis, enlightens the populous. And so on, off into a mid-tempo ramble on the hungry darkness of living. Whatever was going down in 1981 – nobody in this crowd was looking the other way.
Not the only Lou Reed record about doing speed, hanging out all night, talking and whatever. Not even the best one. But it does go somewhere unique. Lou could be an asshole. There seemed to be consensus on that. But we put up with him because every now and then he’d nail something lucid and true about basic humanity, the struggle they call life, and why it’s worth the trouble.