PREMIERE: Cut Worms Pays Tribute to Lou Reed on “Song of the Highest Tower”

Max Clarke teases his debut EP as Cut Worms.  

“I was talking to Lou Reed the other day,” recalls Brian Eno in a 1982 interview with the LA Times, “and he said that the first Velvet Underground record sold only 30,000 copies in its first five years. Yet…I think everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band!”

Obviously, The Velvet Underground & Nico has sold quite a few more copies since its quinquennial. But Eno’s claim may still be valid, as Reed and company’s DIY rock aesthetic has yet to go out of style for young audiences. Like many artists post-Summer-of-Love, Brooklyn songwriter Max Clarke discovered the band at a young age, leading to a revelatory “I-could-maybe-do-this” experience while absorbing the complex simplicity of the band’s music.

On his forthcoming EP under the moniker Cut Worms, Alien Sunset, Clarke pays tribute to the frontman who opened new artistic doors to him. “Song of the Highest Tower” is a seven-minute ballad introducing the poetry of Rimbaud to the acoustic licks of Roy Orbison or the Everly Brothers and a correlative croon infused with the modern psych influence of lead Growler Brooks Nielsen. Yet at the heart of the track lies a melancholy likely attributable to the news of Reed’s passing the day the song was originally written back in 2013. “It wasn’t like, ‘OK, I’m gonna write this song now,’” recalls Clarke. “I kind of assigned that meaning to it afterward.”

It’s been a rough couple of years for young songwriters weaned on record collections inherited from their once-rebellious parents; as the Tom Petty tributes continue to pour in, and as groups like Wolf Parade slip paeans to their fallen idols into their recordings, Clarke’s tribute—although entirely more subtle—yields yet another meaningful testimony to the influence of the burgeoning American rock scene of the ’60s and ’70s. “I was just, like, writing an elegy to an artist I admired. And I always thought there was something nice about writing to or about someone who you have no chance of ever actually meeting.”

Listen to Clarke’s cosmic introduction to the late Reed below.

Alien Sunset is out October 20 on Jagjaguwar Records. You can preorder the record here.

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