Lou Reed began as a songwriter for Pickwick, coming up with throwaway ditties like ”Cycle Annie” and ”Sneaky Pete”; he even contributed lyrics to a Kiss album once. So supplying the music for a Robert Wilson extravaganza isn’t necessarily a step down. But don’t think he treated this assignment with any more seriousness than he did the other two.
Not that Wilson deserves any respect anymore. What’s happened to the creators of Einstein on the Beach? First, Philip Glass goes and symphonically rescores a David Bowie album. Now, Wilson has created a schlocky musical that frequently, painfully, eerily, resurrects The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I mean, why else that ”Blood of the Lamb” scene, where the woman sings from inside a mock sculpture of an Egyptian deity? Are these gallery-world darlings so blocked that all they can come up with are high-concept revamps of material that was high-concept to the point of absolute camp to begin with? Who’s next for operatic tribute, Meat Loaf?
So we leaned back and enjoyed it. The German cast of nonsingers were the closest Reed can ever come to writing for Nico again; his few-chord vamps were as painfully new wave as Wilson’s mannequin-littered sets and vertical hair designs, but who minds an echo of ”99 Luftballoons”? Reed happily ripped himself off–”Gossip Song” redid ”New York Conversation” and ”Into the Divine” dusted off ”Into the Sun”–then even threw in a ”disco bunny” funk jam. And while Wilson was occupied dressing his zombies in red (that Twin Peaks, he thought, all it needed was more rigor), Lou slipped in a love mash or two for Laurie. He loves it when she dresses in black. Or is that what she tells him?