. . . Lou Reed is not an artist who needs much legacy building, although throughout his career he has often required a bit of reputation rehab. Since his epochal 1989 spleen, New York, Reed has released a live album, a couple of retrospectives, a meditation soundscape, and a handful of good, but largely ignored albums, at least one of which (The Raven) drew much head-scratching and derision. But regardless of any recent output, he remains to many something like New York's poet laureate (if not a minor deity), a fact that obscures the history of Reed as a "troubled artist," one who, with every other record, nearly ended his career, if not his life. In 2006, Reed looked back—in anger, disgust, and heartbreak— at one of these “other records,” Berlin, revisiting it with a 35-piece band, unexpected precision, and Julian Schnabel as set-designer and documentarian.
Following his endearingly bitchy, glam-rock cocktail Transformer by a year, Reed's third solo album is grim, tender, icy, and even—I dare say—a mite socially conscious. A critical disaster (Rolling Stone's review ended, "Goodbye, Lou"), it remains one of the many grand fuck-yous of Reed's career, a work of serious, even perverse introspection that's absurdly overblown in every way . . . Click here to read Leo Goldsmith's review of Lou Reed's Berlin in its entirety.