i can’t stand what you do (and Lou Reed)

It’s a starry-eyed autumn night, one of those rare moments where life feels rich and full of possibilities, I’m listening to Rural Alberta Advantage by the hissing fire. RAA are a band who for a while now I’ve been absolutely taken with their mix of lonely love songs dashed with if not roaring, at least rolling, guitars.
But I’m not going to write about them. Instead it’s time to talk about Lou Reed. He may not have been a particularly nice guy, and we can’t blame him for all those awful bands formed by kids getting their minds blown on the velvet underground records, but he was Lou Reed, and for a while back there I couldn’t get Transformer off my record player.
I first heard about the Velvet Underground through a free cd from a music newspaper called Melody Maker. I was 17, and my music world was rapidly expanding and I was always looking for something fresh, something exciting, and something fun and I usually found such things on Saturday afternoons at the record shop in Bury St Edmunds (a place I hated, which somehow made Andy’s Records all the more exciting). Anyway this free cd didn’t actually have Velvet Underground on, but had a really beautiful song by a band called the Modern Lovers called “Hospital”. This song was about the singer visiting his girlfriend in hospital after she’d taken a drug overdose, and the song completely knocked me out. All I knew about this band was the few lines written on the cd case that they were “highly influenced by Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground”.
I had no idea who Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground were, but i was excited to find out. A few months later I found Lou Reed’s transformer in a charity shop, and I was even more excited to see that David Bowie – a guy I’d also recently discovered (I think through the guy from Blur raving about) produced it. I’d never heard anything like that before, it was playful, silly, but unbearably tragic and somehow pure. I never went through a whole Lou Reed period, (apart from listening to Transformer feeling tired and bewildered after parties) perhaps he made some brilliant records, i don’t know. At university boring hipsters got me high listening to the velvet underground and all that, and I never quite got it. I don’t know why, perhaps I was getting tired of hipsters already at 18. It wasn’t my scene, it was too druggy. Anyway the reason I wanted to mention Lou Reed at all is that he’s the cover star in this week’s NME there’s a really spectacular interview with him from 1975. in this interview the famous (and kind of strange) journalist Lester Bangs went to war with a drugged up and aggressive Lou Reed, it’s quite extraordinary to read and I’d really recommend you get a copy of the magazine or download it online.
I’m not going to play Lou Reed now. Instead let’s go back to that Modern Lovers song I was telling you earlier. You might need to get the tissue box out though for this.

the eternal dreamer

It’s been a hectic week for music (sales) as I’m still digesting over NME’s top 500 albums of all time, the death of Lou Reed, and the Mercury music prize. Let’s gloss over those quickly before getting onto something far more interesting. Ok, so NME had a fun list some cool things on it, but the smiths “the queen is dead” at number one is, of course, wrong, I’d put it in top 20 maybe even top 10 but no, 1? Maybe it just reminds me of bad times skipping school at 16 and following the train tracks looking for adventure I never found with a copy of the Morrissey and Marr biography I carried around with me along with “The Catcher in the Rye.” Umm, moving on…Lou Reed whose life has been written about elegantly and passionately by people like the Guardian and the Independent (and celebrated on Absolute Radio) there’s little else to say except it’s sad, but not really a surprise considering the amount of abuse his body took. Somehow crazy Iggy Pop and David Bowie are still  alive (and releasing cool records too). Finally Mercury Music prize. It’s a big thing here, mostly because it allows record shops like HMV and the immoral Amazon to sell a load of cd’s and downloads. For some strange reason James Blake won. I have no idea why.

So now I can finally get onto Mark. Who? Mark Kozelek who is only markkozthe greatest musician of our time! So he didn’t feature in NME’s list, but somehow that’s a good thing too. I saw him earlier this week play in a lovely old church in Brighton, which was an odd setting for someone who is kind of vulgar, but I don’t want to go there I want to talk about his music.

I’ve said for a while now I could throw away all my record collection and never listen to the radio again as long as I could keep my Mark Kozelek records. There’s something so haunting, so lonely and sad about those songs that if I’m a bit vulnerable and it’s late at night and I’m on my own I’m likely to get carried away and find tears rolling down my cheeks. It’s an astonishing mix of heartfelt beatnik soothing poetry and a lullaby gentle guitar sound that can take you breath away, make you stop whatever you’re doing and close your eyes and indulge in the sad world of Mark Kozelek.

He’s 46, as he reminded us the other night, but he’s still hung up on girls, he’s still looking for meaning, and he’s broken. Tuesday night proved that more than anything else, he’s a broken and lost spirit. He’s suffering from attachment issues, but that makes him even more special, even more brilliant, and certainly makes his music all the better. I guess I’m saying unlike James Blake, unlike Morrissey, even unlike Lou Reed, he’s a poet. There’s not many of those around now.

Live he’s brilliant too. Everybody always gets upset and disappointed when they see he isn’t the sensitive Nick Drake type though. Here’s what the BBC wrote a couple of years ago about a concert “The manner in which he (Mark Kozelek) goes about it is extremely disappointing… it only serves to emphasise the gulf between a stunning songwriting talent and an apparently indifferent personality.”  That kind of stuff is always said and it always gets on my nerves. Where does it say to write romantic songs you’ve got to be a super soft cry baby too fragile for the world?

Anyway, im super tired so….You can take any song and it would be brilliant. But here’s an old one…It’s a good place to start as any for those of you who’ve yet to discover his genius.