Lou Reed, Chumbawamba Head Up New Releases

Roots-rockers Cracker's collection Garage D'Or also will hit stores this week.

New albums from rock icon Lou Reed, pop-rock group Chumbawamba and roots-rockers Cracker highlight this week's new releases.

Reed, former leader of storied '60s underground-rockers the Velvet Underground, explores doomed relationships and dark sexuality on Ecstasy (RealAudio excerpt of title track). But the themes of the guitar-heavy album revolve around its title, according to Reed.

"[Ecstasy is] standing outside yourself, beyond your ego, beyond your body, beyond the world's petty concerns — transcendent. ... I've experienced it once in a while, like when I'm playing [music]," he said recently. "I call it magic."

The album features one of Reed's most ambitious songs ever, the 18-minute "Like a Possum" (RealAudio excerpt), which the singer/songwriter said was the culmination of decades of experimentation with guitar distortion.

Also this week, British group Chumbawamba, who had a pop hit in 1997 with "Tubthumping" (RealAudio excerpt), will release their first album since then, WYSIWYG.

The album continues in the pop vein of its predecessor, Tubthumper, particularly on its first single, "She's Got All the Friends That Money Can Buy."

Roots-rock band Cracker, who had a 1993 hit with "Low" (RealAudio excerpt), include that single and other hits and obscurities on Garage D'Or, a retrospective due this week. The collection features several previously unreleased tracks, including "Eyes of Mary" and "Be My Love."

Arty British pop-rockers Travis will release their second album, The Man Who, this week. The album is a more coherent work than the band's 1997 debut, Good Feeling, according to the band's bassist, Dougie Payne.

"The last album was recorded in four days with no trickery, and it became this supposedly schizophrenic record," Payne said in a statement. "This time we recorded it in six months in six different studios using more instrumentation, and it's turned into this weirdly cohesive piece of work."

Lo-fi one-man-band Smog also will release a new album this week, the whimsically titled Dongs of Sevotion. The album includes the tracks "Permanent Smile" and "Dress Sexy at My Funeral."