- Romeo Had Juliette
- Halloween Parade
- Dirty Blvd.
- Endless Cycle
- There Is No Time
- Last Great American Whale
- Beginning Of A Great Adventure
- Busload Of Faith
- Sick Of You
- Hold On
- Good Evening Mr. Waldheim
- Xmas In February
- Dime Store Mystery
All tracks written by Lou Reed except:
- Released in 1989 by WEA/Warner
eponymous notes that, according to the sleeve, the tracks on New York were recorded more-or-less in the same order that they appear on the album, and that the album is meant to be listened to straight through, without interruption - like a movie for the ears, a line that was used to describe Lou's first city "concept" album, Berlin.
New York was Lou Reed's 20th studio album, and also ranks alongside the best of his work (including his work with the Velvet Underground). For the most part, the album returns to the gritty street sounds of The Velvet Underground And Nico, and lyrically, Reed is in inspired form, penning righteous (but never self-righteous) songs about social and environmental issues in New York.
Romeo Had Juliette provides an upbeat opening to the album; it's basically an update of Shakespeare's star-crossed lovers, set in New York. The lyrics are gritty and realistic, and give typically Reed-ian detail to the main protagonists; but Reed shows disgust at their lust, especially in the title: Romeo Had Juliette.
Musically, Halloween Parade continues in an upbeat vein, as the lyrics seem to as well; but the Halloween parade in question is a Gay Pride march. The song itself is about Reed's concern for all his homosexual friends who are dying of AIDS..."This Halloween is something to be sure/Especially to be here without you". It's also, partly, about missing his old mentor, Andy Warhol.
Dirty Blvd. is a Reed classic. It basically tells the hopeless stories of children living in a crappy apartment ("Somewhere a landlord's laughing till he wets his pants") on the eponymous New York boulevard, where "No one dreams of being a doctor or a lawyer or anything/They dream of dealing on the dirty boulevard". At the end, the main character, Pedro, finds a book about magic in a garbage can : "He looks at the pictures and stares at the cracked ceiling/'At the count of 3,' he says, 'I hope I can disappear'/And fly-fly away, from this dirty boulevard".
Endless Cycle is a pretty depressing song set to a metronome beat. Reed sings about how childrens attitudes are coloured and conditioned by their parents behaviour; if a father beats his wife, his son will do the same, and if a wife tries to escape the misery of her marriage with a bottle of gin, the daughter will follow her example. Reed always described his parents as being abusive (according to Victor Bockris' biography, this is far from the truth), both to him and each other, and he followed this example. So in a way, he's merely trying to shift the blame for his behaviour. A fairly weak song, compared to the rest of the album.
There Is No Time is an exhilerating rocker of a song. It seems to be both an admission that Reed himself is getting older, and that society as a whole is running out of time before it destroys itself altogether with booze and drugs. Note that the new, cleaned-up Lou can be something of a preacher...
Last Great American Whale uses the metaphor of the last of a dying species to signify both the environment and the decay of American society. This is a theme throughout the entire album; Reed seems to be disgusted with his fellow Americans for letting his beloved city get into such a state. "Americans don't care too much for beauty/They'll shit in a river, dump battery acid in a stream/They'll watch dead rats wash up on the beach/And complain if they can't swim"
Beginning Of A Great Adventure is a jazzy little number, and is just Reed wondering what it'd be like to become a father, and whether he would be any good at it: "It might be fun to have a kid/I could pass something on to/ Something better than rage, pain, anger and hurt". He doesn't seem too enthusiastic about the whole thing, but believes he might be better at it than "these redneck lunatics/I see at the local bar/With their tribe of mutant inbred piglets with cloven hooves".
Busload Of Faith
is another kinda preachy song from the new, improved Lou Reed. But not too preachy, unless you take "faith" to mean a belief in a specific religion. Reed just lists a bunch of stuff he perceives as "wrong" or "bad" in the world, stating that you need something extra to get by. Possibly the Lou Reed of 20 odd years ago would've written "Busload of Scotch
" instead. This is a fairly slight song, despite the rocking music behind it.
I'm Sick Of You could be about Reed's disenchantment with his domineering wife, or he could be personifying politicians in general. It's probably a combination of both. The song lists "bad" stuff in the world (again!), and says (although not in so many words) 'there's all this shit to put up with in the world...and to top it all off, there's you, too'.
Hold On is a more New York-specific song. Reed details events and crises, real and fictional, from New York, kinda like Busload Of Faith, and sings that "You better hold on/Something's happening here". Presumably, he's hoping that that "something" is a change for the better.
Good Evening Mr Waldheim is about Reed's disillusion with the double-talk and hipocrisy of religious and political leaders. He mentions Kurt Waldheim, Pope John Paul II, Jesse Jackson and the PLO, and asks if the common ground they're so fond of actually exists? "Is common ground a word or just a sound?"
Like Romeo Had Juliette, Xmas In February is a Lou Reed story song, set in Vietnam. The title refers to soldiers in Vietnam celebrating Christmas late, and the verses depict American soldiers in Vietnam, or having returns from Vietnam, dead or crippled. It's a fairly bleak song, all in all.
Strawman is a fierce rocker in which Reed rails against spending money on stupid things ("Does anyone really need a billion dollar rocket/Does anyone need a sixty thousand dollar car") in the face of so much poverty, and also against corrupt politicians ("Does anyone need yet another politician/Caught with his pants down and money sticking in his hole"), and "self-righteous rock singer"s; something which may sound hypocritical, but isn't, really, in the context of the album.
The album ends with Dime Store Mystery, an epic mix of story and pseudo-philosophy, and an elegy to Andy Warhol. His old mentor's death has caused Lou to meditate on his own mortality (and even think about continuing the Reed line), and this is the finest result. An epic, slow-burning song, featuring Rob Waserman bowing a double bass (bringing to mind John Cale's viola on the early VU albums), Dime Store Mystery is a series of images of New York, and of Reed contemplating the nature of life; it also refers to a Christ-like figure, which is what Warhol was to Reed. All in all, an excellent ending to a classic album.
Yet another submission for Everything Quests: Albums and CDs