Music Review Graphs

Yes, I’m getting too busy to actually write about music any more. But I realized that my thoughts about the last Bjork record could be summarized nicely in a diagram, which I now present to you.

Bjork's Career in One Diagram

Lou Reed in Three Diagrams

After doing the Bjork grid, I realized that Lou Reed’s career would make a fascinating diagram. I realized that I had listened to almost every one of his generally crappy solo records and dagnabit, it was time to encode that experience into some diagrams. It makes me a little sad and frightened to think how much of the late 80s I spent in used record stores looking for some of these crappy discs. I guess that’s part of growing up.

Quality versus Sales Up to 1980

First, you can see his brilliant VU output giving way to a wildly uneven solo career through 1980, best summarized by Transformer, the interesting and distressing Bob Ezrin (cf. Pink Floyd’s The Wall) opera Berlin, Street Hassle and Metal Machine Music alternating with some truly putrid and boring records, spiced up with some very loud live records (omitted here). I’ve thrown in a rough ranking of his sales success. Notice how almost everything on the “innovative” side of the chart has been a sales bomb. Then notice how almost everything in the lower right quadrant of boring crap is either a hit or at least mediocre sales. It’s a cliche that artists have to temper their adventurous, innovative side with the need for popularity, but it Lou’s case, it’s pretty extreme. No wonder he kept veering back to this quadrant… most of his moves “left” improved sales, and moves “right” decreased sales.

After 1980

The pattern continues with a few more dreadful records with a gasp of quality with the Quine records (Blue Mask and Legendary Hearts), and his comeback record with Mike Rathke, New York. For context, I left in his extremes for each quadrant.


Lou’s record quality more or less directly depends on the quality of interaction he has with his main collaborator, as illustrated in the chart. By all accounts, Lou is an incredible pain to work with, and he needs someone who can moderate his most indulgent, petty and lazy aspects.