Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Lou Reed: The Blue Mask [RCA Victor, 1982]
After this becomes a cult classic, in a week or so, noncultists are gonna start complaining. "My Dedalus to your Bloom/Was such a perfect wit"? And then bringing in "perfect" again for a rhyme? What kind of "spirit of pure poetry" is that? One that honors the way people really talk. Never has Lou sounded more Ginsbergian, more let-it-all-hang-out than on this, his most controlled, plainspoken, deeply felt, and uninhibited album. Even his unnecessarily ideological heterosexuality is more an expression of mood than a statement of policy; he sounds glad to be alive, so that horror and pain become occasions for courage and eloquence as well as bitterness and sarcasm. Every song comes at the world from a slightly different angle, and every one makes the others stronger. Reed's voice--precise, conversational, stirring whether offhand or inspirational--sings his love of language itself, with Fernando Saunders's bass articulating his tenderness and the guitars of Robert Quine and Reed himself slashing out with an anger he understands better all the time. A