Street Hassle

Street Hassle

Shaking off his aura of glam-rock camp, Lou Reed reclaimed the brutal grace of his Velvet Underground years with 1978’s Street Hassle. There’s serious intent behind the songs here, along with a renewed commitment to primal guitar-centered rock. Reed dispels the image of ennui and dissipation he’d cultivated over previous albums; instead, he probes themes of betrayal and self-destruction with merciless clarity. Street Hassle combines live and studio tracks, matching Velvets-era material (“Real Good Time Together”) with skull-crunching new compositions (“Dirt,””Leave Me Alone,””Shooting Star”). He tests the limits of bad taste with the sardonic racial commentary “I Wanna Be Black” and taps into his early affection for doo-wop with “Wait.” The album’s centerpiece is the title number, a song-suite that unfolds like a radio play. Against a nervous cello and a biting guitar, Reed narrates a stark tale of love and death with a grim sort of tenderness. (Listen for Bruce Springsteen’s brief but powerful vocal cameo on this track.) At the time of its release, the album was hailed as a major comeback by an artist in decline. Today, Street Hassle stands out as one of Reed’s most visceral and revelatory works.


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