Acclaimed Albums – Berlin by Lou Reed

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 204/250Title: Berlin
Artist: Lou Reed
Year: 1973
Position: #223

And the award for ‘Most Depressing Album I’ve Listened To In Months’ goes to… Berlin by Lou Reed. Cue the cheers of the crowd and the music that plays as someone walks to the podium for, truly, it has been quite a while since I have been so blindsided by an album’s lyrical content. Not that I wasn’t warned (a friend of mine told me it was meant to be a bit of a downer), but not even I expected things to get that dark.

Let’s back-pedal a bit from the dramatics that began this post. So, today I thought it would be worth trying to cross off on of the oldest albums remaining from this list, which meant a choice between this and Let’s Get It On by Marvin Gaye. Since I had no desire to listen to a sexy album whilst getting my Python code to work, I was left with this concept album about a couple completely being destroyed by drug abuse and other kinds of abuse.

Much like the proverbial frog in boiling water Reed ratchets things so slightly from the beginning track that it actually takes a while to realize just how desperate things get for this couple… that is until you get to the antepenultimate and penultimate tracks. In ‘The Kids’ this couple has fallen so far that their children are taken away, the crying of children in the final reaches of the song really hammering it home. Then, in ‘The Bed’ she slits her wrists and it hurts.

Berlin is a hard listen because it is just such a tragic story so very well told. The only other albums that come to mind in that category is Nick Cave’s Skeleton Tree and Mount Eerie’s A Crow Looked At Me, but those are based on real and unspeakable grief. All three are hard listens, but all three are well made and ultimately rewarding. Just not ones for the regular rotation lest I fall into a depression.

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