Review Summary: 'You talkin ta me?'
RCA Records, 1972
When I listen to albums, I often enjoy relating them to movies that I have watched, or book I have read. Often the overall theme or concept of the album can easily relate to a film. Happy indie albums may relate to campy family films, while metal albums will be reflected through action or fantasy flicks. This mental technique, I can easily say, has helped me adapt my music taste, as well as helped me look deeper into my favourite albums. Lou Reed's Transformer
is debatably the album that helped me establish this listening style. You see, I gave this album a first listen immediately after watching Martin Scorsese's dark drama 'Taxi Driver'. Immediately connections between the film and this album could be made. Both were dark and eerie, grim recollections of the grimy underbelly of a crumbling city; both looked into prevalent political and social issues, such as corruption, sexuality, and crime. The album cover and movie cover were also very similar in style, both depicting a black and white, depressed looking figure.
Even without comparisons to 'Taxi Driver', Transformer
still stands as a powerful, imposing album. Lou Reed's eerie image, knack for dark songwriting, and composing skills manage to bring the world of New York city's seedy underbelly to life. Walk On The Wild Side
, Lou's most popular song (and one of his best) stands as an album highlight, featuring a smooth bassline, soul vocals, and disturbing, near humorous lyrics describing transvestites and prostitutes. The song overall has a relaxing, lounge feel, and seems as if it should be played in a dark, smoky bar somewhere. A gorgeous saxaphone solo as well as some great backing vocals help make this song a classic, as well as the album's most accessible tune.
Not all of the songs here are as smooth and subtle as Walk On The Wild Side
, Hangin Around
, and I'm So Free
all incorporate gritty guitar riffs and powerful, jazzy drumming, giving across the impression of being simple rock songs. However, once Lou Reed's shaky vocal enters, the songs take on a depressing nature, despite the rather happy musical backing. While Reed's singing is certainly not up to par with many other vocalists, it has a likeable tone to it, and every off-key note helps add to the overall personality of many of the songs.
Upbeat rock songs help create variation here, but they do not compare to the slower ballads. Satellite Of Love
is a whimsical, mysterious tune that depicts how Americans are obsessed with their televisions. Lou's vocals may sound weak as he proclaims 'I love to watch things on TV...' but, when combined with the jazzy bass and gorgeous piano, the song sounds near perfect. Perfect Day
is another beautiful ballad, and one of the best songs on the album. Slow, depressing piano and soaring orchestral sections give this sad song a surreal, intimate quality. Album closer Goodnight Ladies/New York Telephone Conversation
is a drunken, brass driven lullaby followed by a jaunty piano tune, which manages to finish the album with a bang.
is a dark, depressing album that combines jazz with rock and punk. The best album Lou Reed would ever record, this record is home to many classics from streetwalker anthem Walk On The Wild Side
to the sad, string laden balladry of Perfect Day
. Lou Reed's rough voice may not appeal to some, but his overall composing abilities and witty lyrics will bring them back to this album again and again and again.