After contemplating the decline of New York City, the passing of his mentor Andy Warhol, his place in (perhaps) the greatest American rock band of all time, and the very nature of life and death, in 1996 Lou Reed finally began to consider a really important subject -- where to get a good chocolate egg cream. "Egg Cream" kicked off Set the Twilight Reeling, and for many fans it was a kick to hear Reed cranking up his amps and having some fun again, but much of the rest of the album turned out not to be as lightweight as the opener would have led you to expect. On Set the Twilight Reeling, Reed is preoccupied with relationships, as he tries to figure if he wants a long-term commitment ("Trade In"), if he's better off as a lone wolf ("NYC Man"), if he's in love ("The Proposition"), or if he just wants to fool around ("Hookywooky"). Reed rocks a lot harder here than on the two albums that preceded it (and plays plenty of great crunchy guitar), but much of the album is set in a mellow mid-tempo groove that's casual and comfortable but not especially compelling. And while "Sex With Your Parents (Motherfucker), Pt. II" is an amusing attack on conservative politicians, his logic isn't exactly clear. Longtime fans are no doubt grateful that Reed's relatively unfocused and unsubstantial albums these days are such a vast improvement over his fallow period in the 1970s, but for the most part Set the Twilight Reeling sounds like a standard issue 1990s Lou Reed album -- smart, well-crafted, with plenty of guitar, but nothing terribly special, either.
Set the Twilight Reeling Review
by Mark Deming