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The Velvet Underground

The Most Underrated Overrated Band in the World

Introduction
Velvet Underground and Nico
White Light / White Heat
Velvet Underground
Loaded
Live at Max's Kansas City
1969 Live Vol I and II
VU
Another View
The Best of the Velvet Underground
Peel Slowly and See
 
 

This band, after 30 years of ass kissing idolization at the hands of critics and 'knowledgable' music fans, is finally facing a backlash. Well, it's not the first time...when the Velvet Underground was releasing albums, they were faced with indifference at best, outright hatred at worst. And that's, unfortunately , what's facing them today, at least among us dumb amateurs rating bands here on the internet. For some reason a lot of reviews I've read just flat out despise these guys, almost daring us to disagree with them so they can have a fine argument about 'how original were they really?' or how the songwriting wasn't there, or they were too noisy and dissonant, or not noisy and dissonant enough or (fill in favorite obscure band name here) Could wipe the floor with the Velvets...'blah blah woof woof' as Jimi Hendrix would have said.

Listen, I'm not going to sit here and kiss the Velvet Underground's ass. They only released 4 studio albums, and of those maybe 2 could be considered as being really groundbreaking, and a lot of that 'groundbreaking' music simply wasn't too hot. Nowadays, this stuff sounds about as dangerous as safety scissors. It's really repetitive and could have used a bit more in the songwriting department. Production sucks. Pretentious. Annoying. They don't have a 'message'. I'll agree with all of these charges and add some more, but is that enough to damn the entire band and say you just aren't going to enjoy anything they released? Hell no! They're actually a really great pop band! Just a really shitty avant garde one!

Some history: In New York in the mid-60's, guitarist/singer Lou Reed met Welshman John Cale and started making some rough folk/rock demos based around their experiences with drugs and the 'darker side of life' in NY. Reed had this cool tawking Noo Yawk kinda voice and John Cale had this great way with drones, noise, and stuff like that. After bumping around awhile they grabbed guitarist Sterling Morrison and minimalist drummer (quote: "whap whap whap whap") Maureen Tucker and the lineup was set. One of their early gigs was seen by Andy Warhol and they became part of his super-weird art and film company, touring with actors, dancers, and assorted weirdos as The Exploding Plastic Inevitable. Andy thought the band needed a 'chanteuse', so he tacked on German hottie Nico for a record and the band was ready to set the world on fire and outsell the Beatles.

Only they didn't. No one bought their stuff...it was really weird, dark, difficult, and light years from the silly psychedelia then breaking through. Then, some years later after hearing countless 70's artists praising VU for being so ahead of their time, the group finally began to scrape together some respect (and some sales). They reformed and toured briefly in 1992 and continue to sell bunches of records to you young whippersnappers who think you're cooler than us old guys who like Kiss.

Who cares! They're one of my favorite pop groups of all time! And one of my least favorite avant garde ones!

Paul Shearer
couldn't help but comment on your velevt underground take placed via web page.  As if the input of you and I has any bearing whatsoever on the standing of VU or the state of music and the mutation of pop culture today; nonetheless we are certainly entitle to our opinions.  I feel that to deem VU an excellent "pop band" while condemning them an inadequate "avant garde" band leads one to wonder whether or not you listened to their four works in their entirity.  One of the beautiful rarities of VU was their capability to mantain their avant garde (that's right) vision and standing while still avoiding complete arcaneness by churning out some absolute pearls of "pop music."  And in some cases wonderfully intersecting the two genres (ie. all tomorrows parties; sister ray), a recipe that if accomplished today would leave every gen x'r floating on a cloud of newfound "cool."  It is for this reason that the VU have sustained an even keel of relativley obscure popularity.  As far as other "alternative" bands being able to "wipe the floor" with the VU; love it or hate it; if not for VU many of those bands wouldn't have a mop. 

VU explored the dark side which, although tame relative to today, was a dark beacon in the age of flower power to anyone prepared to listen.  It makes us feel knowledgable to criticize, but we must at least accurrately recognize the niche a true artist has carved, which in the case of VU was an aural, visual, psychological, artistic and fertile landscape.


The Velvet Underground and Nico - Verve 1967

The one with the banana on the cover is the one most people buy first, get freaked out by the last couple of songs, and never buy another VU album. I say...eh. As a whole the album seems like it's so overstayed it's shock factor that now all we have are a bunch of songs...some work and some don't. It's definitely the most far out the band ever got in terms of song structure and lyrics. You also have the presence of our Teutonic tart, Nico, and you either hate her voice (hey! like I used to do!) or you really hate her voice.

OK, OK enough shining you on, let's get down to the songs. Parts of this record cool me out like Coolio and some parts gripe my cookies something awful. Take for example all of those Nico songs ('All Tomorrow's Parties', 'Femme Fatale', 'I'll Be Your Mirror')...they're really Pop songs! No seriously! 'I'll Be Your Mirror' isn't weird at all, just annoying 'cos that fucking Kraut can't sing normally! Melodic, but I hate it. 'Femme Fatale'? Same story but a little better. Like Dusty Springfield or something. Pure pop music, man, except for those great off-key background vocals from Louie. Sure make up for how badly Nico sings 'Clown' as 'Clon'...*shudder!*

'All Tomorrow's Parties' is more like it....that cool piano banging really makes the song come alive, as well as Nico's drone-y thing she's doing. No one else could do this song. Can you think of someone that would do this song as well as Nico? No way! This song screams out for some weird depressive neo-fascist hottie German with a bad accent up there jawing away.

As for the Reed-sung tunes, we have two total pop songs ('Sunday Morning', and 'There She Goes Again') which I guess mean something but they're too dull for me to care. Not unenjoyable, but I'm sitting here every time 'Sunday Morning' comes on waiting for it to end so I can hear 'Waiting For My Man' like God intended. 'There She Goes Again' is fine, but it sure seems underwritten to me, and way too short.

So what rules on this disc? Why all the fuss? 'Waiting For My Man' for one thing...eighth note unison bashing with just enough rhythm guitar coolness to make it sound faintly like surf music. Surf music for junkies! That's it. And this is exactly what it feels like to do drugs. They nailed it on the head! Great lyrics...it seems Lou wanted to avoid using current slang when he wrote the song so as not to date the music too badly. I think he did a great job. 'Venus In Furs' is one of those 'moody' creepy songs about kinky sex and cellos, and it works but goes on a bit long. Makes me feel a bit dirty afterwards, but its not the best song on here. 'Run Run Run' is more of that surf music blues shuffle stuff, and its fine. Also about doing drugs! And it's also accurate! I loved taking long pointless walks while fucked up....maybe that's why this album works for me (mostly). It's really accurate in feeling like what they're singing about. Great screwed up guitar solo, too. Way to take the piss outta Hendrix if you aks me.

'Heroin' is the last track I'll talk a lot about and it's the most controversial on here. Most people find it dull, long, pointless, and ugly. I think its absolutely nightmarishly beautiful. Thump thump, strum strum. Maybe a bit overdramatic, but that 2 chord riff is really beautiful and when that electric viola noise solo builds and builds, then finally breaks in stereo its like...shit. Its like taking heroin, which I've never done, but it makes your teeth grit and your mind scream out and its amazing. And when Lou finally sings 'Herrrrr-o-in'...wow. What a song.

Then, ecch. Two pointless noise exercises I hate to listen to: 'European Son' and 'Black Angel Death Song' both irritate me like hemorroids and I don't like to listen to them.

So, you have a few decent songs, some classics, and some awful useless trash. Sometimes the bad songs are so pretentious I almost can't stand it. A frightfully inconsistent record, but imagine how it would've freaked people out in 1966. And if you can suspend disbelief a bit and listen to it without your friends around to tell you how stupid it is, it may really kick your ass into a new dimension one or two times. All in all, though, I probably put it on about half as often as Loaded or Velvet Underground, or even 1969.

 

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Billy Williams       Your Rating:B    
Any Short Comments?:Geez, this is one schizophrenic record. It's half happy, 60's pop, and half junkie, homosexual, and sado-masochistic avant-garde "music." The former half is a lot more enjoyable, IMHO. But then again, if the VU had just done happy-happy, joy-joy pop, they would've gone the way of Herman's Hermits or the Four Seasons. "Waiting for the Man," the poppy songs, and the one about the shiny boots of leather are good, but the rest is poop, S-H-I-T, poop.

BTW, is Nico's only purpose on this record to annoy me with her storm trooper vocals? Because I think it is. Your Email (optional):konner3@yahoo.com

John Sieber  Your Rating: B+

Any Short Comments?: Other than me saying KISS MY ASS WHITE CASTLE HAMBURGERS RULE, I do like the rest of your Doors review except for you hating Alabama Song bnecause it rules! Why? Because it is so atypical. It's just weird and jolly! WOOHOO!

David Elliott     Rating: D

Any Short Comments?: You know, I'm going to sound like a real hard case right now, but fuck these bastards. Yeah, you heard me. Fuck them. Screw the Velvet Underground. They are tedious, monotonous, and thoroughly annoying. We all know it's true, and I think it's about time we started being honest with each other. Oh, I know Thurston Moore told you that they were simply great. I know Lester Bangs damn near had an orgasm every time "Sister Ray" graced his pizza-encrusted JVC turntable. I'm sure David Fricke has removed Reed's penis from his mouth for the necessary length of time to mutter something confirming their greatness as a "disturbing" and "groundbreaking" rock band. Pish tosh. Do you ever really want to hear "European Son"? Do you HONESTLY have any reason to ever listen to "The Black Angel's Death Song" again in your life? Oh, I know. "Sunday Morning". So what? I'll have Paul Simon sing my folky ballads, thanks. "Venus In Furs"? Get lost. And as for Nico, she should h! ave taken her nordic beauty and fucked right off. Music is not for her. Warhol, that pudgy-faced swine, should have been castrated for unleashing the endlessly immature and pretentious Lou Reed upon the world. The Velvet Underground make great fodder for high-falutin' conversations over a round of cappucino and clove cigarettes with a festering throng of your favourite art-school dropout buddies, and little else. I'd like to peel John Cale's skin slowly, so that I can see his exposed, pulsating endoskeleton. I hope that wasn't too harsh. Your Email (optional): beavis78@optushome.com.au
 

Jamey De Santo    Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: Great album, I'm a big Hendrix fan and the "Noise" on this album equals the muffled and distorted sound of his. My favorites on this album are:

1.Run, Run, Run
2.European Son
3.I'm Waiting for the man
4.Heroin

I like the other songs too but these I play over and over!!

Robert Grazer     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: It's kind of a shame that the general taste seems to have backlashed against this album, because the more I listen to it the more I think it's one of the few 60s classics that I can really understand the hype for. "Heroin" is surprisingly intense. I can see how some people could loase interest half-way through, but for as straightforward as the music and lyrics are, I'm still captivated every time. Even "European Sun" isn't quite throw away -- if you listen through the noise, a lot of the chord seemingly random progressions actually flow quite smoothly. And "The Black Angel's Death Song" has a most enigmatic hypnotic groove. Hypnosis is a good description of the album's major success -- everything from the chill of "Sunday Morning" through the repetitious harder songs through Nico's dry voice, the enveloping "Venus In Furs" and "All Tomorrow's Parties" and the chaos of the finale -- the album simply drives the listener into its bizarre yet wholly believable world. It may be crude in doing so, but a good bit of the album's energy comes from its complete defiance of any former standards. It's more admirable that way, a true artistic statement without regard to any expectations from anyone -- the kind of thing that popularity makes more and more difficult. 

Mike     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: The hell with it, I love this album, and have for a long time (since junior year of high school to be exact). I even like "European Son," for god's sake. Even though it's not much more than a bunch of atonal slop jamming, it's really damn good and cool atonal slop jamming. I get more of a kick out of Lou and John raping their instruments for 7 minutes than I did out of Sonic Youth doing the same thing for most of their career. Hell, John's slow-decompose fuzz-bass meltdown throughout the whole damn thing is cool enough for me.

The album does get denied the top-dollar A+ for "The Black Angel's Death Song," as that is indeed something that sounds like incidental noise inside Lucifer's colon, but otherwise quite perfect. Hell, I even like Nico's voice...the album still doesn't get the A+ for two other reasons: 1) the energy level is real low, doesn't really rock out that much, and can be a huge drag when you aren't in the mood, and 2) it's still, absolutely, nowhere near as fun as "White Light/White Heat."

"Sunday Morning" is a great slice of mid-'60's pop - really, one of the most unintentionally ironic ways possible to start such an infamously difficult LP. Lou never did sing as prettily again as he did on that song. And Nico's backing vocals are quite melodic as well. "I'm Waiting For The Man" is the next classic on here, with some kind of major-key-pound-drone meets surf-mojo rhythm goin' on - Cale's avant-garde training with La Monte Young compressed into a three-minute pop song. Brilliant, and the lyrics still haven't dated at all. Great job here, and I do really dig Lou grunting out "Walk it home" at the end before Cale starts bashing the piano like a fifth-grader on 7 Pixie-Stix. "Femme Fatale" is cool and all, with some weirdass tuning (open A, I think, but I ain't sure) supplying those strange harmonic overtones, but the song so far that really gets me excited is "Venus In Furs." Maureen Tucker's tribal drumming is completely hypnotic for once (no one ever made a bas!s drum and a tambourine alone sound so dangerous), the whipping-drone viola part is so damn cool that it hurts and provides a musical counterpart to the S & M theme of the lyrics, the Sterling Morrison bass line provides the real melody of the piece, and the guitar outlines the chords. Over that Lou provides a great vocal - he just sounds so
authoritative. Scary and perversely beautiful, exactly the way it should be.

"Run Run Run" is also a good one - not too meaty in terms of composition, but I always get a kick out of hearing Reed solo like a Stockhausen-trained Link Wray with a stomachache, which is exactly what he does
here. Some tasty Sterling Morrison rhythm guitar work here as well. Also about buying drugs, and though not as good as "Waiting For The Man," even more fun.

"All Tomorrow's Parties" is by far the greatest of the Nico songs here, and the song's just made for her. Reed can't sing this song correctly - the song needs Nico to highlight its highly poetic condemnation of the foolish, but heavy, pressures of a debutante's social life. John Cale's piano playing is his best on the album, and Lou Reed's Ostrich Guitar is fantastic, providing endlessly unpinning, droning variations on the same oddly Eastern melodies falling out of his guitar. The Ostrich Guitar was some kind of in-joke between Reed and Cale. It refers to the guitar tuning, which is Reed tuning all the strings on the guitar to the same note, D. Lou used the tuning again on "Rock and Roll" a couple years later on "Loaded."

"Heroin" is an absolute inarguable classic that musically conveys the experience of drugs better than almost anyone else ever did. It actually sounds like a heroin rush might sound like (I wouldn't know). And it's still totally beautiful. Only the Stooges' "Fun House" album did it better.

From there, the album takes a bit of a downturn. "There She Goes Again" is ok, more poppy then before, but it's not the best song here. It may be about beating a girlfriend, but I don't honestly care enough to find out. The opening is adapted from Marvin Gaye's "Hitchhike." Strangely enough, Marvin didn't get credited. "I'll Be Your Mirror" is the last of the Nico songs, and sounds a little like "Femme Fatale," except that this song is much sweeter, and is really the only place where the Velvets relax and let unadulterated good feelings of love permeate the proceedings. I like it, and Nico's croon is lovely and tuneful instead of icily arrogant. Then the album gets diarrhea for 3 minutes with the laughably
bad "Black Angel's Death Song," and then gets back on track for a fun and nasty 7-minute jam called "European Son." Album ends.

I would not call this the greatest record ever made, but it is probably one of the most influential and farsighted rock records ever made, and for that alone it has merit. I would not single this out as even my favorite Velvet Underground album, but it is undoubtedly the most innovative Velvets album, so it deserves credit for that too. That the songs for the most part are fantastic is something that deserves far more praise. These are mostly pop songs that have been seamlessly blended with techniques from avant-garde music (the feedback, the drones, the tunings, the overall chord minimalism) and fantastically hard-eyed lyrics, and for the most part, they work incredibly well. The album has lasted, and will last a long time.


White Light / White Heat - Verve 1968.

It was the first Compact Disc I ever bought, can you believe it? Seriously! Sometime in 1992. Before that it was only cassettes! And the audiophile production of this sure showed the beauty of my brand new Sony CD player, lemme tell you! Ha ha haaaaa!

I actually enjoy this album better than the first one, first because Nico ain't here dulling down the songs, and the songs are all noisy and destructive like Lou Reed and John Cale were really trying to piss people off instead of incidentally pissing them off in an arty way. It's completely amateurish!! Forget the artsy fartsy first album, this dark bastard is the way to go if you want to scald your eardrums a bit without any entanglements in the morning. Check out this exchange whenever I play this record:

 "Hey, bitch, get out of my CD player and go home. You're too ugly to go hanging around in here like, say, Fun House."

"No, I'm sorry baby I didn't mean that, it's just that I have to go to work and I need you to leave....No, really, don't make breakfast, I don't have time. Yeah yeah you're really a lot cuter than that Nico album. No girl, c'mon, I don't have time for another spin right now. (God I must have been wasted last night to pick you instead of all those other hot CD's at the club) Just put on your clothes and leave, ok? Yeah, sure I'll call you some time. Yeah, it was fun last night....but see ya later, Bye!"

 *Slam!*

First off, the band plugged directly into the board with their guitars turned waaaay up so the whole sound sizzles with weird bassy (and sort of unpleasant) distortion. The bass guitar is super loud on this biatch. This is an exceedingly thin, primitive sounding record, but it doesn't sound bad, necessarily. Actually it matches what the band's playing pretty well.

Hell there's only 6 tracks on this thing, so let's go track by track just for giggles, ok? First is one of the band's best, most hopped up and catchy songs 'White Light / White Heat' and there's that primitive thing again, just whamp whamp whamp whamp. Here's the beginning of Spacemen 3 and all those other cool 80's bands who wore sunglasses and totally ripped off VU. Great song, though, and about our favorite of favorite subjects, the joy of a speed run. Next? Well if you turn your balance control way to the right, you'll get 8 minutes of sorta slow, bassy, groovy repetitive VU jamming with lots of feedback and sounding like some stupid junkie morons covering a CCR jam. Turn the balance all the way to the left and you get Mr. Cale telling you a bloody 'isn't it ironic, doncha think' kinda story I totally ripped off for my senior high school short story project, which I won and got $50, which I spent on more CD's, some of which may have been VU or Lou Reed records, so I guess we're even now, guys. Play the two together and the effect is mildly annoying, which sure is neat if you're sophomoric yourself.

'Lady Godiva's Operation' sounds like it was written for Nico, so it's got a lot more melody in the hook line. I can just dig the cool vibe and the way the bass and tom toms sorta match. A really swinging song if you listen carefully. Hey, I think it sounds like Cream, so bite my wax tadpole. 'Here She Comes Now' was obviously not recorded at the same time as these other songs, and features Lou Reed talking about his girlfriend in bed. I like this catchy little folk-rocky thing a lot, but it's so damn short. Would've done great replacing one of those stupid crappy songs at the end of the first record, that's for sure. 'I Heard Her Call My Name' is a 'freak out' like they used to do in the late 60's, but its just stupid despite Reed's spirited. revival meeting delivery.

And then 'Sister Ray', which I happen to love, but only because I love dumb riffs performed badly for 17 minutes. Seriously, I do. I once had a song with a really killer dumb riff go on for 48 minutes and it could kick 'Sister Ray's' little New York arty ass. Of course, 'Sister Ray' is about a wasted orgy, while 'Just One Bean' was about going into Taco Bell and ordering just one bean. 48 minutes....a masterpiece, I tell you. 10 times better than 'Sister Ray', which I still like 'cos it makes me bop my head like this. fdasjk;fds;jklfdsjk;lfdsa;ljkfdsak;ljdsfajk;lfdsajk;lfdasjksfad;ljkfdsakjl;fdsajkl!

Yeah! Buy this ugly piece of shit today! Its so dumb and funny I think it's brilliant. 10 times more fun than and Nico! It's  'Avant Garde' only if you're a stupid pretentious moron like my ex-boss at the BKC English School. Its a fun, hilarious, noise record if you're an unpretentious cool guy like myself.

But it sucks and you'll probably hate it!

But I love it!

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Adrian Denning mdenster@yahoo.com Your Rating: A-

Any Short Comments?: Can't quite give this a perfect grade. If you don't like the 17 minute clanking distorted repetitive heaven of 'Sister Ray' you're not gonna like this album much at all. There are only five other tracks!

Me personally? I think this is the best thing they ever did. I love that song John Cale

'Speaks' about 'Waldo'. Cracks me up every time!

Seriously!

Mike     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: They did not plug direct into the board. They just turned up and blasted live. It's just that the production is nonexistent. This is one of the worst-recorded albums in the history of rock and roll, and damn, does it tear. One of the best cases of awful production that lost out to the band's sheer dementia.

The band was playing through Vox amps and distortion devices, if you were wondering.

My favorite is "I Heard Her Call My Name," because of everything about it, from the top of its pointed little head to the rough bottoms of its feet; freaky down to its toenails and just as fucking cool. "Sister Ray" is also awesome, and the first side is sweet too.

I do wish it was better recorded and produced, but only a little - I mean, I'd like to at least hear Maureen Tucker's drums on the title track...

(Capn's Response: Umm...I beg to disagree with your ass about the recording, but I'm glad you like this one.)

barrett     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?:      i love lester bangs. ive also been given to a lot of shit reviews by him suggesting that the fug's, the godz and the troggs were rock primitism at it's zenith,but the aforementioned bands lester lead me to were golden calfs compared to the velvet undergrounds white light/white heat album. lester was at least right in naming this the ultimate expression of nihlism in rock n roll. by noise and by lyric this isnt an album that says kill yourself. it just suggests that normal life wasnt worth living anyways and that god was the sado masochist suggested in the first album, so lets just have some fun blasting the demons out of our head. i personally take offense to anyone who says "the gift" gets boring. the music predates Pil. and the lyrics predate anything that Nick Cave would get called brilliant. so fuck the afterlife,live like you were when you were 18 when you were having the most fun(at least i am currently,at the age of 18 so don't take advice from me) and bust your ear drums. what are you saving them for anyways?

 


Velvet Underground - Verve 1969.

Put this on directly after White Light / White Heat and you'll probably crack your laser lens in your CD player like dropping a hot coffee cup into icy water. No signs of noisy weirdness here! Avant Garde? No way! Hey, it's quiet!! It's folky rock, like those chummy, friendly dudes on the cover in their collegiate sweaters came over with their guitars and stuff and want to play you a few of their new songs they just wrote. Jeez, these guys aren't weird at all! They just want to sing a bunch of 'doo wah's' like on 'Candy Says' and slowly strum their clean, warm sounding electric guitars. Even when they rock it's in a groovy, bopping in your basement not-too-loud-so-the-neighbors-don't-call sort of way. But bozha moi, I love the crap out of these songs. The warm fuzzy, quiet atmosphere really helps me focus on the tightness, the hooks, the cool solos, the great songwriting they show off for us finally. I love 'What Goes On' to death, those words, that groovy fast-as-lightning strumming (you try it!), that back beat. The drums are only backbeat! No stupid rolls or fills or anything. See if you don't start grooving to this monster after a few minutes. Or you'll find it insufferably boring, in which case go fuck your mother. I assure you that won't be boring, since me and Sterling Morrison were doing her last night and it was cool. It helped that Sterling has been a corpse for 2 years or so whilst fucking your mother.

Oh yeah, John Cale is gone so you don't have any weird cellos or anything. Not like you did on White Light / White Heat either but...dammit your mom is so hot in the sack. Maybe that explains the noise issue. I mean your mom, not John Cale.

Listen, these songs are groovy and moody and...dammit! Expressive! Some are dumb, like 'That's the Story of My Life' and 'The Murder Mystery' (which is still the most 'avant garde' track here, but its stupid. But interesting!) but those songs are after all these other songs that are damn near perfect.

And 'Jesus' is THE BEST GOD SONG EVER and no one ever mentions how great and sad it is other than to say 'wow, the Velvets are singing about Jesus and it doesn't even sound like its a sick joke!!' Why can't anyone ever accept that this band just never was that weird or that alternative or that 'uber cool'...I mean, the only member that was turned out to be Cale, and after he left they only wanted to write cute little snappy catchy songs and did it better than damn near everyone else. Keep this band off your stupid 'cool' list and leave it for us simple folk who love a great tune and some decent lyrics.

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Loaded - Warner Bros. 1970.

I read somewhere that this was supposed to be their 'hit album' for their new record company, but oh well. It sure ran outta them stores, I'm sure. What happened though was that the band sure sounds normal now. The unfinished 'Hey that song was called 'Jesus', do you think I could grab a Tab from the fridge?' intimacy of Velvet Underground is gone, but they left the clean as a whistle sound for us to enjoy here as well. The dumb White Light / White Heat chaos and the Velvet Underground and Nico pretentiousness is long gone by these days.

Some of the songs are almost too stupid, though. 'Who Loves the Sun', for example, is simply bubblegum Monkees music. It's great, but man its AM radio all the way right here. 'Cool It Down' is a groovy little sleaze rocker, but it's not going to be confused with one of the best songs in life. Take 'I Heard Her Call My Name' from WL/WH, remove all the parts that your parents wouldn't like, and you'll get 'Head Held High'. 'Lonesome Cowboy Bill' sounds like something Van Halen would cover on Diver Down or something and put a really spiky guitar solo on top of. Its pure country hoedown music. 'Train Comin' Round the Bend' is incidental, repetitive (in that bad way, not in the cool old way) and boring.

But the rest of the songs here are absolute winners! Ever hear 'Rock 'n' Roll'? About a little rich girl who dances to the radio, it is! Love it! 'New Age' is a Velvet Underground-ish slow track about falling in love with old actresses and it's great. What a bridge! And 'Sweet Jane', one of the best riffs in the world and one fine love song...just listen to it! Fine, optimistic, happy song! Makes me one happy man whenever I hear it, that's for sure. Lou Reed's finest time on this earth....Then 'Oh Sweet Nothin'...a song some people say is too long, but I say bullhockey. It's emotional, dammit! Bob Yule's only reason for living. That simple, stupid, retarded chord sequence if played by Paul McCartney would be considered 'classic melody', but since it's written by this 'avant garde' arty band suddenly becomes boring and lame. Fuck that! Our freaks from 'Sister Ray' make an appearance here as seen from a normal person's point of view. One great song...

Eh...half the songs overcome their 'dumb factor', their simplistic melodies and total accessibility. Half don't, but they're still listenable from here back to Tokyo, lemme tell you. This album is a source of good, wholesome, dumb pleasure and don't let anyone tell you different. A classic? Ehhhh.....no. But it's darn fine. Think of it as the best album the Monkees never made. It's not as good as Velvet Underground because of some of those dumb filler tracks, but its a far sight more listenable than the first two albums and not as dull as VU.

Note: There's now a two disc Rhino rerelease of this album with a bunch of demos and unreleased tracks not even found on the Peel Slowly box and I recommend it. Some of those rare tracks are cool! And they finally give you the full version of 'Sweet Jane' with the new verse on it. Wow. Buy this version instead unless you're short of cash.

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Live at Max's Kansas City - Atlantic 1972.

Shitty sounding live document from their last ever live concert in 1970. I'd much rather listen to 1969 myself, so I seriously almost never put this on. Trust me and buy the other live album instead. You do have some dude asking for drugs and shit into the mic all the time, which is good for a laugh, but really....it sounds terrible.

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Live 1969 - Mercury 1974.

Wow. If you like VU's songs, and not just the idea of VU, I'd say this set, or at least Vol.1 from it, is an essential purchase for you. I think it's marvelous. You get the cool, clean sound of the Doug Yule-era band playing all the band's best songs in a funky guitar strum groove. The songs rock! They're stretched out, but the band doesn't wank! Lou Reed talks about a football game that ended 32 years ago! You get some rarities, like 'Lisa Says', which are simply fantastic. The second disc is a bit slow and draggy, but you buy them separately so if you wanna, just leave it be and skip the second, worse version of 'Heroin' and 'I Can't Stand It' and 'White Light / White Heat' and a bunch of slow songs. The first disc is perfect! Rarities? You got it! 'Heroin'? You got it! A super rocking 'What Goes On' which makes me wanna go to New York and felch Lou Reed's manly flavor until my Juicy Fruit tastes like his morning bong hit? Yesirree Bob!

You like Velvet Underground and Loaded, doncha? If you do, rush right out and grab this fine set of albums. Today.

You don't? Well why don't you just go home and listen to your Another Green World and your Zen Arcade pop music sellout shit monkey bullshit, whydoncha?

Shit. I mean your Let it Bleed and your Pink Flag.

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VU - Verve 1985.

Take Velvet Underground and Loaded and interpolate. This is the album the VU's recorded in late '69, but those buttholio record execs at Verve didn't want to put it out because there was none of that 'groovy' 60's 'drug music' on it, and Verve had had it up to HERE with VU doing weird shit like playing melodic little folk-rock tunes and not selling any albums like all of their other BIG HUGE label stars like....umm.....who is on Verve anyway? A bunch of junkie jazz vibraphone players from the 40's?

Kick 'em off! Kick those oddball Velvet creeps Off Our Label! Send them to Warner Brothers! We don't want to hear their names ever again!

Or at least until 1985 when we realize we have one of the best bands of the last part of the century, then we'll clean up by selling all their vault material! Yeah! Right on! I'll buy the party ball!

Hey, really though, this is Prime Velvets, and you really wouldn't wanna go through life without hearing cool stuff like 'Lisa Says' or 'I Can't Stand It', or to marvel at the really quiet dorkiness of 'Stephanie Says', or to wonder why the hell 'Ocean' seems so long and pointless, but is really pretty good if you put your ears on and really listen to it. Hey, it's not to the level of perfectness of Velvet Underground and doesn't have any of the classic supergreat tracks that Loaded has (except maybe 'Lisa Says', which is one of their best tracks period), but its still really good and worth a lot of love. Maybe not their best one, but certainly no worse than Velvet Underground and Nico, for example.

Note: Oh, there's another vault-clearer called Another View released in 1986 or something, which I've never heard. Supposedly has a bunch of instrumentals on it and some more rare tracks that aren't as good as these.  Whatever you do don't make Another View your first VU purchase like my Velvets-ignorant friend did and totally swore off the band forever more because of it. Only for fans!

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RustyHandle

okay.... love this album... love every velvet underground album... but i like another view a little bit more... you should check it out... the instrumentals are very pleasing... especially ride into the sun, it's one of those songs that just elates you every listen... awww man what an awesome song... it's a great album... i think that is... but i also cherish the velvet underground...

 


 

Another View - Verve 1986.

While the first post-mortem Velvets studio release VU can almost be treated as a complete and succinct album, there's no mistaking Another View for anything other than a box of old bits and pieces that someone found lying around the same studio the boys made VU in.  This is most definitely outtake stuff - unfinished business and half-discarded tracks from the same late-'69 sessions that produced the pleasant yet oddly unremarkable VU album, including instrumentals consisting of little more than the patented Velvets' deadpan chugga-chugga,  a couple of versions of the same lame song ('Mr. Rain'), and a couple of other bits that can't be of much interest to anyone that doesn't live and breathe this band.  Well, I try to claim I don't, but the undeniable pleasures of the latter-day Velvets' hook-factory musicianship come on so strong about halfway through this album that I'm left knocked out, loaded, and lacking excuses.  Simple as it may be, the instrumental demo 'Ride Off Into The Sunset' may just be the most beautiful thing this band ever recorded...it's simply a variation on the highly-familiar I-IV interval these guys love so much and sounds quite similar to 'Sweet Jane' (and indeed may be a protoplasmic version of the rock classic), but there's this music-box lead line that flitters over the top that slowly morphs into a bittersweet fuzz bit that gets me every time. Now, it's not really like me to go gaga for an instrumental like this, but something just screams at me that this would make a brilliant song for anyone with the wherewithal to tackle writing some lyrics for this thing...we already know these chords work, don't we?

The post-Cale period Velvet Underground was not much for experimentation of the teeth-gritting, zygote-splattering flavor of the and Nico band, but kept pushing boundaries in its own polite, mannered way just as long as Lou 'Loud' Reed was still in the band.  A bit of the ol' spirit can be witnessed on 'Ferryboat Bill', which is a White Light/White Heat-ish song played in Velvet Underground style but with doo-wop backing. It's confusing, but only a couple of minutes long, so no one's gonna get any suspicious bruising or anything like that.  Reed's 'Coney Island Steeplechase' is as good as anything he's produced in his solo career, meaning it's just as self-indulgent and strangely disconnected and sincere at the same time, just like a Willie Nelson song.  Except about Coney Island and sounding more like the Beach Boys Sunflower album than I previously thought was legal in this state.

The 'hit' 'We're Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together' was later used by Reed on his party-time Street Hassle record, recreated in dirgey style, but here it supports my own peculiar notion that the Velvet Underground, once you subtracted all the Europeans, was nothing more than a damned fine surf-pop band with a penchant for lyrics about sex and drugs.  And when I say 'damned fine', I mean it...they chug through a blistering bunch of whistle-clean Chuck Berry licks like they sped the tape up, and believe me when I tell you that playing this fast is far from easy.  It requires practice, and shitloads of it.  And if you think I mean 'amphetamines' when I say 'practice', you're dead on there, Pilgrim.

'Hey Mr. Rain' is given two different readings here, both featuring John Cale on tunelessness, but neither one is worth a kick in the stomach (and after five minutes of a highly suspect melody cycled over and over again while Cale does miscellaneous cello drones is a bit closer to a kick in the stomach than I usually like to travel).  The second is a bit faster and has some 'stun' guitar buzzes that sound more Buck Rogers than Buck Dharma, but it's not for me to care.  All I hear is something that was too tuneless and boring to make it onto White Light/White Heat, where at least this kind of monolithic avant-gardeism was leavened by a razor-lipped wit and an audible rhythm section. The version of 'Rock and Roll' here is unremarkably inferior to the actual version, and 'Guess I'm Falling In Love' is interesting only for people who think rock-steady eighth note grooves are revolutionary stuff. I suppose sometimes they are, but usually only when coupled with some words and maybe a Democratic National Convention or two.  This sounds too much like the Velvets morning warm-ups to really be worth much.

Another View, whatever the 'rarity' of the material contained within, is a very listenable record of a band that's a whole lot less pointy-headed and 'avante garde' than a lot of people like to believe, but it's simply unfinished.  There are moments that will force you to ruminate on why they weren't more successful among the unwashed Hessians, and times that beg you to revisit your Loaded and VU for more clues, and moments that'll have you looking forward to the next time your record player arm picks up, as well.  But I can't deny that a Velvet Underground fan will have plenty to chew on with this outtakes collection, and for that reason I'm calling it thumbs-up.

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Best of the Velvet Underground - Verve 1989.

Hrm, all the 'hits' are here, so I can imagine a lot of people possibly finding this useful. All the usual suspects, your 'Heroin' your 'Run Run Run', 'White Light / White Heat', 'Beginning to See the Light', 'Sweet Jane', etc. etc. etc. If you're really afraid as to how weird this band might be (they're really not) you might check this out. Fans don't need it, just buy the four discs and shut up.

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Peel Slowly and See - Polydor 1995.

Docked a bit for making you buy the first disc of demos for the first record which are boring and stupid and only listenable the first time around to go 'Wow! That first album really held things together, didn't it?' Docked another bit for making us all buy all four albums again, even though we obviously already have them or we wouldn't be shelling out $50+ for a Velvet Underground box (or maybe not, see below). There are a bunch of rarities and cool live tracks, including all of VU as well, so maybe its worth it. I actually turned two of my best friends on to VU my freshman year of college and they both bought the box and loved it, so maybe it does have a point. Me? I downloaded the rare tracks from the internet.

By the way the 'Closet Mix' is another term for 'alternative to the stupid 80's production treatment VU got back in 1985.) It means nothing but less stupid reverb all over the drums.

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