"MISTRIAL." Lou Reed. RCA. A founding father of punk and the genre's definitive "You-talkin'-ta-me?" method singer, Lou Reed can usually be counted on to have something worthwhile to say and a great deal of style when he says it. Beginning 20 years ago with the Velvet Underground and continuing through more than a dozen solo LPs, he's proved himself an unusually consistent writer.
His records, however, are inconsistent because they're musically uneven--sometimes a Lou Reed record sounds like nothing more than generic three-chord rock played with a modicum of enthusiasm. His critically acclaimed LP of last year, "New Sensations," was a winner because the production, arrangements and playing were superb. Unfortunately, the same can't be said of "Mistrial," which is a merely adequate record by a good artist.
Alternating paeans to the healing power of love with rants decrying the sorry state of humankind, "Mistrial" features a number of good songs that could've been great were they better produced. The squealing guitar that swamps the title track, for instance, sounds awful.
Lou flashes his street credentials with "The Original Wrapper," a paranoid rap possibly inspired by the Tylenol cyanide scare, and remodels one of his finest songs, "Satellite of Love," on "Tell It To Your Heart," a romantic ballad with a similar holy mood. Two songs with wonderfully complex and cryptic lyrics are matched with underdeveloped musical ideas that reduce them to virtual throwaways, while a bouncy nothing of a song called "I Remember You" has neither lyric nor hook to redeem it.
Any weakness in the material could've been minimized with some rip-roaring playing and that's where this album really comes up short. Tender but tepid, "Mistrial" finds Lou in a good state of mind but in the company of a crew of mediocre sidemen.