Coney Island Baby was released at the end of 1975, the follow up to Lou Reed’s aggressively noisy Metal Machine Music. This album couldn’t be further away, his band, including ex-Velvet Underground bass player Doug Yule, create a warm, melodic collection of songs.
The lyrical message across this album is of Reed’s blissful love life. Opening with the chiming keyboards of Crazy Feeling, the lyrics are peppered with references to his love interest Rachel (“and you, you really are a queen, oh such a queen”). The strutting, skipping guitars of Charley’s Girl follow before the guitars add a little bite on a slowed-down version of VU tune She’s My Best Friend (guess who).
The album takes a sharp left as, unhappy with this gooey softness, the Lou Reed street persona reappears on Kicks, a murderous tale of getting thrills from violence (“when the blood comes down his neck, don’t you know it was way better than s€x”) as snatches of conversation swoop in and out, creating a most unsettling atmosphere which threatens to completely spoil the mood.
A Gift follows, where Reed sings tongue-in-cheek lyrics about being “just a gift to the women of this world” over soothing, strummed guitars and dippy pipes. After two relatively throwaway songs, the sighing guitars of the title track are a fitting end to the album. Here Reed recites a possibly autobiographical (hard to tell though as the man lies constantly) tale from his childhood of high school days and sports try-outs over a wonderful melody. Some of the lyrics hark back to his edgier past (“all your two-bit friends, they’ve gone and ripped you off”), culminating in Reed cooing about the “glory of love…. man, I swear I’d give the whole thing up for you”. It sounds quite wonderful, though it’s so far removed from Heroin, Waiting for the Man and Berlin that it’s hard to take it 100% at face value. Nonetheless it’s probably the most tuneful Lou Reed album.