If I ever got drunk enough to do karaoke without dying of alcohol poisoning, this would be my song. No singing required, for The Gift isn’t really a song. Or it’s two songs in one. Or a song and a story. It’s designed, if you have the two-channel, two-speaker stereo setup, so that on one speaker an instrumental song is heard, while on the other John Cale reads a short story. That neat effect is kind of lost if you’re listening on a crappy iPod dock or boombox or similar low-rent kit. The Velvet Underground did a lot of experimentation with using speaker channels for striking effect. On The Murder Mystery four speakers are optimal to fully enjoy the unrelated, overlapping vocals. It’s the opposite of the wall of sound, where layers of vocals and instruments are meshed perfectly into a seamless whole. The story, written by Lou Reed for a college assignment, takes name and influence from O. Henry, with swift characterization and abrupt surprise ending. I’m convinced Lou Reed could have found his way into the pantheon of great American novelists, had he not chosen to tell his stories in verse. Not everyone who’s good at poetry excels at prose, but Reed’s songs are on the edge between – any one of his songs could be punched and molded into story form. Which could be a cool project for him in the future, I think. I’d like to see him sit down and write a book. Maybe we could find out what happened when Marsha Bronson opened that box.