Tuesday, April 26, 2011

314. The Velvet Underground. At last their least.

Album: The Velvet Underground
Artist: The Velvet Underground
Genre: Rock
Year: 1969


  1. Candy Says
  2. What Goes On
  3. Some Kinda Love
  4. Pale Blue Eyes
  5. Jesus
  6. Beginning to See the Light
  7. I'm Set Free
  8. That's the Story of My Life
  9. The Murder Mystery
  10. After Hours

It seems like almost every modern band on this countdown cites the Velvet Underground as an influence. This is our first chance to see why.

VU started as a three-headed beast with American Lou Reed, Welshman John Cale and German Nico all trying to lead the band, with Andy Warhol in the background trying to drive proceedings. The resulting tensions produced their first and greatest album (and most iconic album cover). Nico and Warhol moved on to other things leaving Cale and Reed to push each other to greater musical extremes for album two. By the time the third album (this one) came out Cale had left and Reed was left in charge. The Velvet Underground is essentially a Lou Reed album and one that he made with a compliant backing band.

Having given you the background details I should probably take the time to mention how fantastic it is. Three songs in the middle of the album are among the most beautiful things that Reed has ever written. Some Kind of Love, Pale Blue Eyes and Jesus are propelled by Lou’s plainful voice and low key instrumentation. All three are just gorgeous and worth buying the album for on their own. These three tracks are bookended by two great rock and roll songs What Goes On and Beginning to See the Light both of which should be compulsory listening for anyone who thinks the VU were all about weirdness.

Not that there isn’t weirdness around to satisfy those of you who like the bizarre. Murder Mystery is not just one tale of murder and violence it’s two tales of murder and violence sung simultaneously. If you’ve put this album on as background music for a seduction attempt this is the moment when the object of your affections walks off in horror. Which is a pity because then she’d miss drummer Maureen Tucker’s vocal debut on the self conscious but charming After Hours.

The Velvet Underground released four albums in their short life and every one is on this countdown somewhere. If you haven’t sat down with them at some point then you should definitely take the time to find out what the fuss is all about.

Highlight: What goes on through to Beginning to see the light.
Lowlight: The Murder Mystery.

Influenced by: A desire to baffle fans.
Influenced. Pretty much everyone. But especially U2. Listen to the live version of What Goes On to find out where the Edge got his signature guitar style from.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "like a quiet lamp it glows... this album is important. what goes on in candy's mind explore this deceptive bent calm sometimes jagged intense, dark, and bright."

-That review started to make sense but turned out reading like a random series of words. The Velvet Underground can have that effect on some people.

So did you hate this intensely or have you already stopped reading because you’ve run off to start your own rock band? Let me know below.

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