Sunday, 23 September 2007



Somewhat wayward and occasionally trade Street Hassle is the confident sound of an accomplished artist with the powers that be backing him up.

Spread over eight songs at times Reed just sounds inside as his voice warbles all over the show and words scream/ache of imbalance. Rationally a person would be forgiven for having a toxic reaction to this record but when were things ever easy with this guy.

With many resources at his disposal this is a Bowie sounding record, quite far removed from the sound of Velvet Underground but at the same incredibly restrained where otherwise it could have clung onto a messy glam sound at a time when punk had hit hard. With a song such as “Dirt” there is a real trudge to proceedings and a sense that all things were not necessarily good at this time in this world. Eventually he winds up reciting The Clash lyrics while appearing to be stealing from a Stooges track.

It is the title of the album that fires proceedings into the stratosphere, producing for me what is perhaps the greatest song in the solo catalogue of Lou Reed. The first time I heard “Street Hassle” was on a strange compilation available through mail order by the Melody Maker called “Rebellious Jukebox” which collected together tracks from all the legendary influences that bands would always be name checking. Clocking in at 10 minutes and 53 seconds I expected a nightmare but instead what I received was a breeze.

Forget “Perfect Day” and “Walk On The Wildside”, this is his creative, his masterpiece song that towers over everything else within his being.

A few years ago the song re-entered my consciousness when it was strategically placed at the climax of the movie The Squid And The Whale, placed at a most pivotal point where the emerging strings sat early in the scene and everything would eventually come together as the visuals and music came to climatic perfection in a manner that saw Goosebumps shoot up and down my being.

Putting aside his poison bubblegum tracks this is his most triumphant opus. As the first few lines of string swoop in the song pulls away like a long distance liner leaving shore setting sail on a voyage. This is no bargain package deal.

The ambition of the song always reminded me of “Marquee Moon” (the song) and Cale’s own “The Gift” in the way that the song confidently takes its time while telling a tale from life’s seedy underbelly. The three separate sections and harrowing narrative includes the tales of a girl overdosing at a party. It’s an ugly. Then Bruce Springsteen of all people arrives for a brief cameo and even he cannot ruin the song. If anyone ever doubts the ability of Reed this is the song that must be passed onto them.

As the dust settles the clumsy “I Wanna Be Black” follows with its good intentions but curious execution although the song does sound like a fun party. Equally bemusing is “Real Good Time Together” which strongly/staunchly echoes “Real Cool Time” from the first Stooges album in the worst method imaginable (although word is that this was a left over Velvet Underground track).

Eventually the record reaches the lumbering “Leave Me Alone” that sounds part Roxy Music and part Steve Mackay invasion of a Stooges song. It exhibits a lot of a drive if not necessary the most amount of fun.

The record closes with “Wait” which is another saxophone harbouring ditty that you are not quite sure if it is riding the right side of ironic. I quite suspect that this is the sound of drug goggles in action.

Ultimately Street Hassle is a very important record/point at Lou Reed’s career. Considered by a force now too far gone and ravaged by drugs there turned out plenty here to grasp onto even if it wasn’t necessarily the most original of material although it did at least point towards all influences being the right ones. Moving on.

Thesaurus moment: struggle.

Lou Reed
Arista Records

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