No stranger to popular music that pushes against the outer limits of sonic expression, Lou Reed thinks Kanye West's Yeezus is "majestic and inspiring." In fact, at some point between his reportedly life-saving liver transplant in May and his most recent stint in the hospital this past weekend — where he was sent by ambulance after suffering dehydration — the crankily aging rocker has found time to write a nearly 2,000-word screed for The Talkhouse laying out his views, and it's fantastic. The review, that is — although Reed mostly thinks Kanye West's sixth album is, too, decreeing from on high that "there are moments of supreme beauty and greatness on this record, and then some of it is the same old shit."
As you'd expect, Reed eschews the flowery, overwrought prose of modern music criticism to tackle Yeezus in his own brash terminology. Marveling at the "typical synth buzzsaw sound" that opens the album, for example, Reed writes: "It's like farting. It's another dare — I dare you to like this. Very perverse." Whether or not "very perverse" is intended as a nod of approval remains slightly unclear, although Reed does seem to sympathize with West's desire to release such a sonically jarring, unapproachable album, comparing it to Axl Rose:
He seems to have insinuated in a recent New York Times interview that My Beautiful Dark, Twisted Fantasy was to make up for stupid shit he'd done. And now, with this album, it's "Now that you like me, I'm going to make you unlike me." It's a dare. It's braggadoccio. Axl Rose has done that too, lots of people have. "I Am a God" — I mean, with a song title like that, he's just begging people to attack him.
Reed seems particularly thrilled by the contradictions West embodies on the album — how the sparse, bracing synths of "New Slaves" segue into a soaring Frank Ocean coda that "literally gives me goosebumps," or how the rapper snarls "Fuck you and your Hamptons house" on the same track despite his own lavish lifestyle — which makes sense, if you consider that Reed is the guy who once put "Sunday Morning" and "Venus in Furs" on the same album. And Reed doesn't shy away from such allusions to his own music, likening West's thought process to his own mindset while recording 1975's Metal Machine Music, an album that contains 64 minutes of uninterrupted guitar feedback slowed up and speeded down. Reed, we are now told, simply intended it as a loving gift, which he thinks is how West intended Yeezus:
I thought of it like, "Wow, if you like guitars, this is pure guitar, from beginning to end, in all its variations. And you're not stuck to one beat." That's what I thought. Not, "I'm going to challenge you to listen to something I made."
Gushing aside, there are bits Reed isn't so fond of, like lyrical references to "getting head from nuns and eating Asian pussy with sweet and sour sauce," which might be funny to a 14-year-old but "has nothing to do with me." But Reed isn't a prude. In fact, he thinks it's ridiculous that listeners have objected to "Put my fist in her like a civil rights sign," among other misogynistic soundbites: "C'mon, he's just having fun. That's no more serious than if he said he's going to drop a bomb on the Vatican." Reed, of course, once famously penned his own 15-minute tribute to oral sex and drag queens during his tenure in the Velvet Underground — and he only managed to get "Walk on the Wild Side" played on the radio because censors weren't familiar with the term "getting head."
Which is to say that maybe he sort of gets Kanye, who he says understands "that all styles are the same, somewhere deep in their heart, there's a connection." Is a connection between Yeezus and Metal Machine Music too farfetched to be true? Here's hoping the connection isn't quite deep enough for another ill-conceived Lou Reed collaborative effort.