Lou Reed, The Blue Mask

Michaelangelo Matos

By Michaelangelo Matos

on 02.06.12 in Reviews

The Blue Mask

Lou Reed

All of a sudden Lou Reed was middle-aged. He’d gotten married, had a house, was feeling both the weight of his past and lifted from being mired in it. He was happy, but not content and that combination means The Blue Mask felt utterly unlike anything else he’d ever recorded before. It’s an album about accepting your own limits, from realizing that blackout drinking isn’t working anymore (“Underneath the Bottle,” with its perfectly timed “Ooh-ooh-wee son of a B!”) to the helplessness of being held up at gunpoint (the tense “The Gun”). The closest thing it has to an anthem is “Average Guy”: “Average looks, average tastes/Average height, an average waist/Average in everything I do/My temperature is 98.2.” It’s not a celebratory album not with a centerpiece like “Waves of Fear,” which Reed snarls like he’s running a fever and someone won’t stop buzzing his door, or one like the title cut, with its lines about castration but such plainspoken-ness is one reason it’s so powerful. And if “Women” (“I couldn’t keep my hands off women/And I won’t till I die”) is a strange line in the sand from the man who brought transvestites to Top 40 radio just ten years earlier, Fernando Saunders’ bass makes it hard to resist anyway.