The New Lou Reeds have probably the most dead-on name in the whole of music today, as they start off “Screwed” with a direct Velvet Underground-influenced track in “The Gutter”. From the grungy production value to the detatched style of singing, The New Lou Reeds would make a believer out of the old Lou Reed. The vocals laid down by Stephe DK have a Mojo Nixon-twang to them that really elicit comparisons to the new-rock bands like The Strokes and Jet instead of any talented, critically acclaimed band. While Stephe’s voice changes slightly in timbre and pitch, from truly annoying to a Mick Jagger-tone, the guitars are continually at the same distortion level, going over the same ground that tracks before it have broken. It is only when The New Lou Reeds break out of their fragile art-punk sphere that the true innovation comes on this disc, first evidenced by “Hate Fest”. Infusing the Velvet Underground/Talking Heads sound with minor amounts of Elvis Costello as well as unplugging the guitars for a few minutes, The New Lou Reeds slow down the breakneck tempo of the disc and use the track as a refresher.
Continuing their experimentation for the follow-up track to “Hate Fest”, “The Foreigner’s” slightly ska-influenced guitar mixes well with the status quo solidified by the first few tracks. While there are a number of tracks on “Screwed” that are musically and technically satisfying, the sheer fact is that there is nothing like “Venus in Furs” on this album, nothing that will put The New Lou Reeds on the cultural map. While they are fairly true to their genre, the disc feels a little cliché and dated on the second, third, and fourth listens. Nick’s bass and Jeffrey’s drums may have a terrific dynamic on tracks like “Gone Fishin’”, but the lack of dynamism that faults Stephe’s guitars and vocals keeps this album from being truly considered an instant classic.
“Brighton Beach” is the one bright spot on the disc, a place where the crunchy sound of the guitars actually aid Nick’s intricate bass lines. Stephe’s vocals are not as quite as grating this go around, and the scales of the guitars add a progression, an urgency to the track that is not often found on “Screwed”. When Stephe’s starts screaming on “Brighton Beach”, the notes immediately pull your heart, threatening to tug it out of your body. There is no lack of talent for The New Lou Reeds, just a desire to keep in a comfort zone that must be combated before achieving greatness.
Top Tracks: Brighton Beach, Hate Fest
The New Lou Reeds – Screwed / 2003 Exit Stencil Records / 12 Tracks / http://www.thenewloureeds.com / Reviewed 17 September 2004