Home Read Area Resident’s Classic Album Review: Lou Reed | Set The Twilight Reeling

Area Resident’s Classic Album Review: Lou Reed | Set The Twilight Reeling

Inspired by his new romance with Laurie Anderson, Lou rises to the occasion.

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:


Four years after the fittingly titled Magic And Loss, Lou Reed uncharacteristically goes from strength to strength with this 1996 album. Set The Twilight Reeling comes at a time when he was fresh into a relationship with singer-songwriter Laurie Anderson, whom he married in 2008. In fact, the record is dedicated to her.

It does, however, start with a stupid song. That’s something Reed does far too often. Egg Cream would be great with different lyrics. Musically it’s kind of akin to R.E.M.’s What’s The Frequency, Kenneth? Lou is acknowledging the kind of distortion his followers were currently using. Nevertheless, “You scream, I scream. We all want egg cream,” is just plain stupid.

NYC Man follows this problematic opener, and is an improvement despite the farty pop bass. This one’s jazzy and cool. There’s almost too much inflection in his voice, but the slightly more complex than usual song structure makes up for it. Kinda. The acoustic guitars are more prominent on this record than any others before it. They show up here on the third track, Finish Line. It’s the first great song on the album. I still wanna smack the bass player, though. This one is a lovely tribute to the recently passed Sterling Morrison, one of Lou’s old Velvet Underground bandmates.

Trade In comes next and has too much fretless bass for me. Nope. This time I’m sleeping on the couch. Hang On To Your Emotions is better, but a bit boring. Not bad, though. But then, here we go! A banger. Sex With Your Parents (Motherfucker) is classic Lou.

Hooky Wooky is about Anderson, specifically Reed struggling with the knowledge of her past lovers while wanting to get her in the sack. So, that’s why he sings, “I wanna hooky wooky with you.” I hate euphemisms for sex. There’s an Elton John song called Big Dipper that I hate more than back acne. Apart from that, Hooky Wooky is a good track. I like The Proposition better, though it might be a tad slow. The drums are weird — they sound like they were recorded for a different song, or at least a generic song. But it’s not like this one is terribly complicated. There’s nothing to dislike here, but it’s not a standout either.

Adventurer, on the other hand, is great. Yet another acoustic-based one, with some Ragged Glory power chords over top. This has more of the signature Lou sound, with some delightfully way-too-many-words-for-the-verse bits. Likewise, Riptide is cool. It starts with a cool, heavily processed guitar introduction that sounds like a guitar shop Stevie Ray Vaughan. But, as is the case with several of the songs on this record, it’s underproduced — or maybe just poorly produced. It sounds like the mix was never completed. But with Reed, this does not detract. Riptide has some grungy chord changes, and way more chord changes in general than most of his songs. At nearly eight minutes long, it will have you hovering over the stylus or skip button.

My favourite on the record is the closing title track. Set The Twilight Reeling is acoustic, with bass and drums. It has perfect Lou vocals and brilliant lyrics. I can imagine him as the musical guest on The Late Show With David Letterman or Saturday Night Live, just killing it with this track. Kind of an all-timer.



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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.