Home Read Area Resident’s Classic Album Review: Lou Reed | Mistrial

Area Resident’s Classic Album Review: Lou Reed | Mistrial

Aside from a couple of decent songs, this ’80s clunker is one massive misfire.

I have always considered myself a Lou Reed fan — but maybe I’m not. Or at least not an indiscriminate one — especially when it comes to his solo output. After leaving The Velvet Underground, the late legend made 20 studio albums as a solo artist, along with two more collaborations. Of those albums, I was only familiar with five. So I decided to listen to and review the remaining 15. At times it was like torture.

In a nutshell, Reed has a big basket of bonafide classics. Unique, unmistakable and ground-breaking songs which combine poetry and prose with a variety of music styles. But he also recorded a fly-ridden heap of awful, awful songs featuring his distinctive but poor singing, along with excessive sax and fretless bass.

Here’s one of the entries in his uneven catalog:


I remember seeing this album when it came out in 1986. It feels like Miami Vice or Simon & Simon. This ain’t Lou Reed. That said, I know people who love ’80s Aretha Franklin, so anything’s possible I guess.

Mistrial‘s title track gets things going. It has thin ’80s production and an outro where Lou even spells out the song title like we’re on Sesame Street. This sounds like born-agains trying to appeal to youth.

No Money Down is better because it doesn’t try to sound “rock.” Don’t get me wrong; I don’t like this at all. Squealin’ sax, Hall & Oates-style backing vocals, female backups on the chorus, fake drums… this is the bad ’80s stuff. Yuck. Who was Lou trying to appeal to here? Not his old fans. Not the kids who were inspired by his old music. Not the kids who were buying Starship and Madonna albums. This was probably one of those albums that counted as ‘the weird record’ in some square’s collection.

It keeps getting worse. Outside should be left outside. This should be an outside song. Put a bowl by the back door. The kind of song that can be faintly heard coming from a radio in a scene from Short Circuit. What’s next? Oh good — a ballad. Don’t Hurt A Woman is garish. Virtue signal much, Lou? Holy fuck, this is bad. If you’re going to write an anti-violence against women song, or an anti-anything song, don’t just come out and say it. Find a more subtle way to get your message across. Good gawd. What the hell is this? And it’s soooo slow.

On his previous album New Sensations, Reed included songs about video games? Turns out he wasn’t done writing bad songs about trends. Video Violence makes him sound wildly out of touch. This is basically something from Circle Square — you can almost picture the jittery, sway-dancing puppets. Oh, and it’s ONE FUCKING CHORD. Lou!! Side 2 better be better…

Spit It Out sounds like music from an ’80s cop show. Actually, this sounds like an anti-drug song you’d hear in schol. What’s that in your mouth? Spit it out! Brought to you by your friendly local police officer. Let your parents check your Halloween candy. It’s cool to be careful. Mean kids are just sad kids. Wow, this album better be a frigging joke. It’s like it was court-ordered or something.

And then we get la piece de resistance: The Original Wrapper. Reed rapping. This makes me uncomfortable. It’s like the end times. One chord, fake maracas, ’80s slap bass and everything. How is this the same man who did Sister Ray? Next up, Mama’s Got A Lover is a country song, dressed up as J. Geils Band. It has a real nice turnaround in the verse, but that’s it. Boring as hell.

I Remember You is the only good song on the album. In fact, it feels out of place, like a leftover from one of the previous two records. I’d love to hear it without the ’80s drums. Tell It To Your Heart is the album-closing ballad. Just pause on that for a bit. Reed wrote a song called Tell It To Your Heart. Satellite of Live Love Laugh. Even worse: It’s actually the second-best song.



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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.