My Top 1000 Songs #390: Dirty Blvd.
There's plenty of great work in Lou Reed's post-Velvet Underground catalog. But if I'm being honest, I have to admit there, for all the memorable songs, there aren't a lot of solo albums I truly love (at least after initial early gems like Transformer and the more divisive Berlin). Which made 1989's New York so thrilling at the time. It was his most consistent album, it sounded great, and its sociopolitical edge and topical content, with Reed deeply engaged in the material, made it feel more vibrant and of-the-moment than almost anything since the VU days.
It hasn't necessarily aged as well--the trade-off in wielding so much politically-pointed subject matter is the risk of feeling obsolete once the names and events have faded from memory--but it remains a personal favorite of mine. Lots of great songs to choose from, but my primary go-to is "Dirty Blvd." Its simple 3-chord guitar hook is a bit of a cheat, an easy, familiar chestnut energized with a Pixies-like volume modulation from the verses to the choruses; but the poignant tale of street kid Pedro locked in New York's urban poverty feels no less urgent decades later. Lou rails against American bigotry and greedy landlords and the cycle of hopelessness, but it sounds more real, more lived-in and personal, than some of the more character-based work that peppered his career.
It's tragic and frustrating and absolutely riveting.Live on tv, 1989:Live with David Bowie: