Lou Reed, who died today at 71, made no secret of his disdain for many of the people who wrote about him, but longtime Village Voice staffer and Dean of American Rock Critics Robert Christgau is the only one to have his sexual preferences questioned from the stage on one of Reed's live albums. (To wit: "Critics! What does Robert Christgau do in bed?
Silly things will be written about this record, so let me emphasize up top that, overhyped or not, a fine record it is, and fine in a distinct way. But with Omar Souleyman — especially as heard outside the Levant, as the region encompassing his Syrian homeland as well as Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, and Cyprus was once known — "fine" is a double-edged word, because it suggests how subtly we're forced to make distinctions within his catalogue. Americans who already enjoy Souleyman's music don't understand lyrics that explore only one theme anyway, or grok the rhythmic and melodic heritage modernized by his hectic, insistent, electrified, some-say-"techno" version of the long-running Levantine genre called dabke.