Lou Reed is a musician, songwriter, author and photographer based in New York City. The famed rock ‘n’ roller is a founding member of the Velvet Underground and a co-host of New York Shuffle on SiriusXM. For The Talkhouse Reed reviewed Kanye West’s new album Yeezus from which we took some selected excerpts for you here. To read the full review head over to thetalkhouse.com.
There are moments of supreme beauty and greatness on this record, and then some of it is the same old shit. But the guy really, really, really is talented. He’s really trying to raise the bar. No one’s near doing what he’s doing, it’s not even on the same planet.
People say this album is minimal. And yeah, it’s minimal. But the parts are maximal. Take “Blood on the Leaves.” There’s a lot going on there: horns, piano, bass, drums, electronic effects, all rhythmically matched — towards the end of the track, there’s now twice as much sonic material. But Kanye stays unmoved while this mountain of sound grows around him. Such an enormous amount of work went into making this album. Each track is like making a movie.
Actually, the whole album is like a movie, or a novel — each track segues into the next. This is not individual tracks sitting on their own island, all alone.
Many lyrics seem like the same old b.s. Maybe because he made up so much of it at the last minute. But it’s the energy behind it, the aggression. Usually the Kanye lyrics I like are funny, and he’s very funny here. Although he thinks that getting head from nuns and eating Asian pussy with sweet and sour sauce is funny, and it might be, to a 14-year-old — but it has nothing to do with me. Then there’s the obligatory endless blowjobs and menages-a-trois.
“I’m great, I’m terrible, I’m great, I’m terrible.” That’s all over this record. And then that synthesized guitar solo on the last minute and a half of that song, he just lets it run, and it’s devastating, absolutely majestic.
But why he starts the album off with that typical synth buzzsaw sound is beyond me, but what a sound it is, all gussied up and processed. I can’t figure out why he would do that. It’s like farting. It’s another dare — I dare you to like this. Very perverse.
“New Slaves” has that line “Y’all throwin’ contracts at me/ You know that niggas can’t read.” Wow, wow, wow. That is an amazing thing to put in a lyric. That’s a serious accusation in the middle of this rant at other people: an accusation of himself. As if he’s some piece of shit from the street who doesn’t know nothing. Yeah, right — your mom was a college English professor.
The juxtaposition of vocal tones on “Blood on the Leaves” is incredible — that pitched-up sample of Nina Simone singing “Strange Fruit” doing a call-and-response with Kanye’s very relaxed Autotuned voice. That is fascinating, aurally, nothing short of spectacular. And holy shit, it’s so gorgeous rhythmically, where sometimes the vocal parts are matched and sometimes they clash.
At so many points in this album, the music breaks into this melody, and it’s glorious — I mean, glorious. He has to know that — why else would you do that? He’s not just banging his head against the wall, but he acts as though he is. He doesn’t want to seem precious, he wants to keep his cred.
If you like sound, listen to what he’s giving you. Majestic and inspiring.