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Day 334: The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground & Nico

28 Jan

Sunday Morning

I was at a Los Campesinos! concert yesterday (see if you can spot me—I’m not the guy in the Scooby Doo costume half way through).  After the show, I bought a shirt.  On this shirt, is a wishbone drawn in a manner very similar to the Warhol banana on the cover of today’s record.  That got me thinking about The Velvet Underground—long time readers may remember that the band didn’t do all that much for me back in the early days of The Swole.  But, as encouraged by one of the site’s more vocal commenters, I decided that I should give them another shot, especially if I’m going to wear a shirt that references The VU’s work.

Do you know why I did (and continue to) not like White Light/White Heat? It’s really, really bad, almost objectively so. However, Nico almost sounds like it was made by a different band entirely.  Lou Reed’s got some great lyrics on this effort, and everything sounds rehearsed and planned—there’s no seventeen-minute genre-odyssey this time around.  Perhaps the fact that Andy freakin’ Warhol was the producer has got something to do with it…

The most noticeable difference between this record and White Light is that Nico really serves a purpose.  There’s still good music being released today that draws from this record—any band that claims to conjure inspiration from any other VU record is extremely misguided.  Plus, I finally know where the All Tomorrow’s Parties festivals got their name—check track 6.

I feel like I can wear my wishbone shirt with pride now, repping two bands that I don’t hate at the same time.  Now that’s kind of cool.

Day 15: The Velvet Underground – White Light/White Heat

15 Mar

White Light/White Heat

For this week’s Dad-Rock Tuesday, my father picked The Velvet Underground’s 1968 album White Light/White Heat.

Well…that was…interesting.  I’ll be honest, I didn’t love White Light/White Heat.  I’ve listened to pieces of The Velvet Underground & Nico (the banana one) before, and I liked what I’ve heard .  It’s possibly a bit overrated, as lots of older music is, but it definitely held it’s own in my opinion.  Unfortunately, White Light/White Heat didn’t come close.

Honestly, there’s something about the entire album that sounds thrown-together.  It feels like the band got to the studio, and then decided that it would be a good time to put some music together.  The guitars are random, but that’s hidden pretty well by the immense amount of distortion in front of them.

I’ll admit, the lyrics can be pretty good at times.  A track that sticks out on the album is The Gift, which tells a story of a guy who mailed himself in a box to his long-distance girlfriend.  When the package arrived, he ends up getting his head split open with the sheet metal cutter that was being used to open the box.  It’s a good story, but its delivery is a little unconventional.  John Cale tells the story in a deadpan voice over seemingly unplanned guitar riffs.

Then there’s Sister Ray, the 17-minute closer.  I thought this song sounded random and thrown together while listening to it, so I decided to check the song’s Wikipedia page.  Sure enough, “’Sister Ray’ was recorded in one take. The band agreed to accept whatever faults occurred during recording, resulting in over seventeen minutes of highly improvisational material.”  Why is that a good idea?  It sounds bad.  Don’t even get me started on Lou Reed in this song.  Half of the lyrics are about someone “sucking on [his] ding-dong.”  C’mon.