LOU REED, Ecstasy (Reprise) How fitting that Lou Reed previewed his new record a few weeks back on the radio station of the cerebrally smutty

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Lou Reed, American Psycho soundtrack, and more.

LOU REED, Ecstasy (Reprise) How fitting that Lou Reed previewed his new record a few weeks back on the radio station of the cerebrally smutty Webzine nerve.com. Nerve is so New York, so gritty, and such a staunch believer in sexuality "as a truth-telling vehicle." Reed has always shared these angles, and his first release in five years furthers the idea that the most vile and terrifying components of human nature are vividly illuminated through our experiences with sex and love. Reed explored this extensively on 1973's Berlin, 1989's New York, and 1992's Magic and Loss, to name some of his more eloquent post-VU efforts. He's still got it. Ecstasy lucidly demonstrates why well-trodden subject matter like the death of love is perpetually relevant. On the 18-minute "Possum Day," Reed threatens to undermine his message, painting himself as the marsupial in question: "Feel like a possum in every way," he snarls, "possum whiskers, possum face, possum breath, and a possum taste." But he goes on to show that he's still the best voice for the disenfranchised whores of the world. "I got a hole in my heart the size of a truck and it won't be filled by a one-night fuck," he sings, a little melodramatically. The reason it works is the same reason why Reed has managed to endure: He can't lie. When he makes the bile rise in your throat, he's not trying to shock you—he just wants you to pay attention. And he's not infallible. Take "Future Farmers of America," a goofy and gratuitous parable about slavery that was originally part of a collaboration with Robert Wilson on an embarrassingly titled opera, Time Rocker. It's not too much for Reed to overcome, though. For the first time in years, his cadence is relaxed, his gaze unflinching. As a spokesman for the bitterness of love, nobody can top Reed for insights like "It's all downhill after the first kiss," one of the many that make Ecstasy hit home.—Hannah Levin

VARIOUS ARTISTS, American Psycho (Koch) The best soundtracks excavate pop-culture landmarks and make them jive with cutting-edge songs (preferably B-sides or original material). Trainspotting accomplished this by somehow combining the likes of Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life" with Underworld's "Born Slippy." Such soundtracks as Romeo & Juliet, A Life Less Ordinary, and The Beach imitated this formula with varying degrees of success. Now American Psycho comes close but misses the mark. It manages to recreate the darkly materialistic atmosphere of the Reagan era's latter years, but with the exception of a gorgeous and gothic remix of the Cure's "Watching Me Fall," the album suffers from its roundup of current sounds. Dope look like beggars in king's clothing with their guitar-heavy take on Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)," and David Bowie's "Something in the Air" is a faint echo of the legend's former self. On the plus side, American Psycho resurrects the Coldcut remix of Eric B. & Rakim's "Paid in Full" and M/A/R/R/S' "Pump Up The Volume," two highly danceable tracks that too often get overlooked on Caucasian-heavy "flashback" radio shows and '80s theme nights. In addition to club classics, from Information Society to New Order to Tom Tom Club's props-heavy "Who Feelin' It," you'll also find the less memorable "Hip to Be Square" by Huey Lewis & the News. Better hurry, though, because Huey's pulled a Burt Reynolds. Just as the '70s icon turned on Boogie Nights, expressing dismay with the film's sexual content, so the '80s kinda-icon recently did with American Psycho for its violence. At Huey's insistence, CDs containing his song are being pulled from shelves as you read this.—David Massengill

MARAH, Kids in Philly (E-Squared) The storefront-inspired songwriting of brothers Dave and Serge Bielanko gives this follow-up to 1998's playful Let's Cut the Crap and Hook Up Later a pretty hefty job: to serve as a viable mouthpiece for their hometown of Philly, Pa. Dave sings the praises of his neighborhood haunts on "Christian St.," a jubilant, trumpet-based tour through pizza joints, bookies-only pay phones, and the memory of Rocky Balboa. Dave's gravelly vocals—best likened to the rich, everyman style of Canadian roots rocker Fred Eaglesmith—serve up great narration for this bar brawl of a disc. "Faraway You" is a boozy, Pogues-ish singalong, while its friendlier counterpart, "Barstool Boys," is a mandolin-bundled story of life in the fast lane. Tavern cheers ring in the background of many tracks, and though the mood sometimes turns dark, Marah makes the no-bullshit Philly way seem more appealing than a fat steak sammich at quittin' time. A few generic beer commercial-type tunes ("The Catfisherman," "From the Skyline of a Great Big Town") stumble, but the overall tight, midtempo drive—and the engaging, historical lyrics—of Kids in Philly give it a shiny glint. The City of Brotherly Love, indeed. —Kristy Ojala

 
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