Like him or not, Lou Reed is a man who certainly lets you know what he doesn’t like (and there are a great many things that he doesn’t). So is it surprising, or not surprising at all, that this rock ’n’ roll contrarian and front man of the Velvet Underground would turn out to be an enthusiastic fan of the Kanye West album “Yeezus,” one of the year’s most divisive pieces of music?
In a review published Tuesday at The Talkhouse, a Web site that says its goal is to “promote dialogue between musicians who may never have interacted otherwise,” Mr. Reed places himself unequivocally in Mr. West’s camp, remarking that there “are moments of supreme beauty and greatness” on “Yeezus,” and that the rapper himself “obviously can hear that all styles are the same, somewhere deep in their heart, there’s a connection.”
“It’s all the same” stuff, Mr. Reed writes, using an expletive, “it’s all music — that’s what makes him great. If you like sound, listen to what he’s giving you. Majestic and inspiring.”
Mr. Reed raises questions about some of Mr. West’s more provocative lyrics on “Yeezus,” which he variously describes as tossed off, childish and “very funny,” and he compares the synthesized buzzsaw sound that opens the record to flatulence.
But he also praises the track “Blood on the Leaves” (which juxtaposes Mr. West’s voice with samples of Nina Simone’s “Strange Fruit”) as “fascinating, aurally, nothing short of spectacular.”
And of Mr. West’s feral growling on “I Am a God,” Mr. Reed writes: “It’s not like a James Brown scream — it’s a real scream of terror. It makes my hair stand on end. He knows they could turn on him in two seconds. By ‘they’ I mean the public, the fickle audience. He could kill Taylor Swift and it would all be over.”
Mr. Reed being who he is, he also finds room in his 1,800-word essay to defend his 1975 album “Metal Machine Music,” which the critic John Rockwell described in a review for The New York Times as “over an hour of screaming, steady-state electronic noise” that “will convince many of his admirers that he has finally tripped over the line between outrageousness and sheer self-destructive indulgence.”
Mr. Reed counters, “I have never thought of music as a challenge. You always figure, the audience is at least as smart as you are. You do this because you like it, you think what you’re making is beautiful.”
“Yeezus,” which sold 327,000 copies and was No. 1 on the Nielsen SoundScan chart in its first week of release, has elicited critical responses as polarizing as anything Mr. West has released in his career. Reviewing the album for The Times, Jon Pareles wrote, “The music hurls Mr. West’s rhymes like a catapult, an effect compounded by his vehement delivery. But the sound and attitude often say more than the actual words.”
But Mr. Reed says emphatically of Mr. West, “The guy really, really, really is talented. He’s really trying to raise the bar. No one’s near doing what he’s doing, it’s not even on the same planet.”
(Mr. West did not immediately respond to Mr. Reed’s review, but, as someone who recently told The New York Times that something bearing his name is “supposed to be pushing the furthest possibilities,” he presumably appreciates this particular compliment.)
Lets check out a track!