The Velvet Underground

V.U.? More like P.U., if you ask me!!!!
*special introductory paragraph!
*The Velvet Underground & Nico
*White Light/White Heat
*The Velvet Underground
*V.U.
*Live 1969
*Another View
*Loaded
*Live At Max's Kansas City
*Squeeze
People tell me that Lou Reed and his Velvet Underground were a groundbreaking band that brought the grit and drugs of the NYC Lower East Side into the previously tidy and respectable world of rock music, but I've always found the majority of their songs to be either (a) half-assed and disappointing, or (b) excruciatingly lifeless and dull. Part of the problem is that drummer Maureen Tucker played with mallets and no cymbals, so even the 'rockers' don't actually 'rock.' Another part of the problem is that I've never been able to get into their ballads - neither hypnotic nor particularly pretty, they've always struck me as simply boring. The one aspect I do actually like about them is Lou Reed's gruff wheezy monotone, which as far as I'm concerned is about the only welcoming aspect of the band. But then I was never a part of the Warhol art scene nor do I intend to become a part of it any time in the near future. See, I need my rock to ROLL - not just sit there and fiddle its diddle for ten boring minutes. When I want druggy profane '60s bullshit, I'll take the Fugs, thanks!


The Velvet Underground & Nico - Verve 1967.
Rating = 6


Sitting through this album is like trying to stay awake while driving your car down an endless stretch of highway at dusk while it's lightly sprinkling outside and you know you've got about five more hours to go. In other words, play this CD in your car and YOU WILL DIE. John Cale's eerie viola is a killer addition, and there are definitely a few songs that force chill bumps onto the arm of even me (the snakey "Venus In Furs" is amazing, for example -- why couldn't they have recorded more evocative material like that one?). However, endless messy boring-as-dirt tracks like "Heroin" and "European Son" totally suck out all the energy generated by perfectly normal catchy little songs like "There She Goes Again" and "Run Run Run." I would never argue that Lou Reed was a lousy songwriter; I love a lot of his solo material! I just personally need something more than 'pleasant' melodies and raw lyrics to bring me back time and time again. And the Velvets just don't provide that for me. The instrumentation (aside from the cool viola) is blandly straightforward mid-'60s blues/rock/lounge, the tepid drum sound completely prevents any of the material from gettin' goin', and only a few of the songs are beautiful or weird enough to rise above the overall dreary tone and excite my brain stem. Plus, I can't stand Nico's thick German vocals, so "I'll Be Your Mirror," "Femme Fatale," and "All Tomorrow's Parties" are automatically shot to Hell.

Reader Comments

corpsebag@hotmail.com
Maybe not as good as White Light / White Heat but still one of the greatest albums ever. How can you diss "Heroin", and "Venus In Furs"

Weigelda@aol.com (Dave Weigel)
Man, is this ever overrated. I love "Sunday Morning", "Femme Fatale", "Venus in Furs", and "Heroin", but the rest is boring. That's it. I don't see this as a great album. 5/10.

By the way, as far as overrated albums go, this is about 100,000 times better than The Jesus and Mary Chain's Psychocandy.

markc@javanet.com (Mark Cybulski)
Good album, but probably the most overrated album in rock history. The pop songs are great, as is "Heroin". But the shitty production (sounds like it was recorded in a garage, but it doesn't have the novelty of being low-fi), and Nico's God-awful vocals (What an embarassment!!) drag it way down. The last two songs are impossible to sit through. 6 (maybe 7)/10.

yearzero@earthlink.net (Chris Collins)
I dunno why a bright guy like Lester Bangs loved these guys so much. They managed to make noise and crappy instrumental prowess sound boring.. that actually takes work! Like you say, advanced for '67, but compared to the (vastly more aggressive, influential, and NON-PRETENTIOUS) Stooges.. forget it. "Venus in Furs" and "Heroin" are pretty good, but overall, no thanks.

Anarky1000@aol.com
This whole album is amazing! Er, except for Nico's songs. Why did they get talked into putting her on? Well, besides Nico, all is well. "Sunday Morning" is brilliant, "I'm waiting for the man" is great rock, "venus in furs" scares me, "heroin" has cool drumming, "run run run" has weird ass cool lyrics, and Nico sucks....except on "all tommorow's partie"s, but only because the cool piano stuff and the lyrics. I give this album (9/10)

cliffnorth@localaccess.com (TAD)
Mark, I know what U mean about these guys, but ... this just in ... "All Tomorrow's Parties" is ... almost ... not bad. I ... kinda like it. & Nico .. can almost sing it. Imagine it sort of as The Byrds, only with a drugged-out German-woman lead-singer, mayB.... I dunno, 2 me it could almost have been a hit. I mean, it's got a nice slammin drum sound, it's got those raga-style guitar & keyboard sounds....it was 1967, after all. It would've fit right in with George & The Beatles' Indian stuff & "Eight Miles High".... Well, mayB not. But I can almost stand this 1 track. Can almost Njoy it, even.

I bought a Velvets best-of collection & listened 2 it a couple times, & I respect Lou Reed 4 just still Bing alive (sorta like Keith Richards, if U get my drift), & I'll admit that "Heroin" is certainly ... intriguing & unsettling.

But music 2 get sad & depressed 2? On purpose? Hmmm. Interesting area, like listening 2 stuff that sounds bad 4 U cos it might actually B good 4 U. A real Artistic Accomplishment, whether U like it or not. I used 2 think King Crimson was like that. But KC thrashes around & gives U a way out. VU just sounds hopeless, just total darkness 4ever, no light at the end. I don't know, I guess U had 2 B there....

Just thinking: Wouldn't Elmer Fudd do a GREAT version of "All Tomorrow's Parties"? --

"An whot coztume shall D poh gul weh ... Fo all tomowwoh's pawties...." Ghod, he'd B even better than Nico....

ckay@iserv.net (Chris Kay)
I guess after following the Velvets, the various off-shoots, etc., for some 25 years, I could agree that not all of the experiments came off with a beautiful conclusion. Why should it? It is better to try and fail and try again than give up like most of the pukes that have oozed up from the primordial smoke haze of downtown. The velvets first LP contained sweet, sweet, heart-felt innocence and cold eye needle popping. That was the whole point. Most of the severe hippie acid assholes of the day either died or slowly caught up to (and followed) the then nascent Nihilistic literati hoi polloi. That, in my estimation was the truer mirror of the day, an impression that still obviously gets short shrift. The Velvets simply did not create "product" like the very late Jim Morrison or the always mostly commercial David Bowie. I doubt if the 19th century artists like van Gogh, et al, even thought much about marketing deals, repackaging, etc., when the basic urge to expel their souls on canvas hit them. I guess you either hate 'em or love 'em. There doesn't seem to be much middle ground.

kburt@seascape.com (Kent Burt)
"Run Run Run" and "There She Goes Again" are NOT "perfectly normal little hippy songs" - The Velvet Underground had NOTHING to do with the hippy movement - they were about as far away from that as anyone could be in 1966-67...they hated playing San Francisco because they HATED hippies! Listen to the words, pal - there is NOTHING hippy-ish about this record. I can't believe how many people wrote in agreeing with your worthless review. I mean, it's not my favourite Velvets album (that would be the third), but this album started a whole movement of angry, fucked up, misfit rock and roll... And Nico was in the band because Andy Warhol liked her and thought it would be good to put someone so beautiful in such an ugly context as the Velvet Underground and the Exploding Plastic Inevitable. The band didn't like having her there - but they gave her a few songs to sing, and then she went on to do some solo stuff in a little while...

AZAHEDAN@energy.state.ca.us (Aaron Zahedani)
Who here on this list of Nico haters has really listened to the much maligned Femme Fetale and I'll Be Your Mirror? Whether you'd like to admit it or not, true Rock n Rollers have more to say than fuck the man, lets fuck shit up and have a party. Songs like Hendrix's Little Wing and Floyd's Fearless are what really get to me, when your stoned again and wondering why or when your girlfriend turns out to be the piece of shit you began to think she was when you first caught her vibes. The VU songs you hate have lyrics written by Lou Reed, and are fittingly sung by Nico, Nico Icon. Think man.

starostin@geocities.com (George Starostin)
Wow... one strange record it is. There's certainly lots of Eastern influences, which is why all the songs sound so slow and numb, but I'd say there are other influences here, too. The most weird thing is that, although the native German here is Nico, Lou Reed's songs sound German too - like the kind of stuff you'd hear in a Nazi cabaret in the 30-s. Or in a Marlen Dietrich film. Or something like that. Weird! Anyway, I'd rather say I like this record than I hate it, although it's really a tough question. The problem is, you start fine and right there in the middle of the record you suddenly find yourself falling asleep. Like you know, 'Sunday Morning' is a fantastically beautiful song; 'I'm Waiting For My Man' strikes you with these quasi-German intonations and its ridiculous pulsating beat; 'Femme Fatale' has Nico and it's a great melody, but it adds little to the impression already given by 'Sunday Morning'; 'Venus In Furs' starts cool, but its third minute is crucial - either you are lulled or not. Me, I am. So I really cannot say much about the following tracks. 'All Tomorrow's Parties' is cool. The last two or three tracks suck - there's not a terrible lot of virtuosity, and feedback experiments are better left to Jimi or Pete.

I think this record is certainly unique in a special, 'sixty-seventh' way. If compared to other records of that groovy year, I'd rate it somewhat above Are You Experienced, Surrealistic Pillow and Piper At The Gates of Dawn (it is somewhat more entertaining melody-wise), but significantly below Sgt Pepper, Satanic, The Who Sell Out, The Doors and Disraeli Gears. At least THESE whoppers don't make me want to yawn. And also, I could never appreciate 'Heroin'. Still, I have nothing against Nico. She's a pretty cool singer.

bougopgs@eckerd.edu (Gregory S. Bougopoulos)
I basically think you're reviews are way off base. The Velvet Underground were one of the most important and best groups in rock history and you degraded them to mediocre status. I have agreed with you on many of your reviews (and your taste in music as well) but not this.

The first album is a 10. "Femme Fatale" and "I'll Be Your Mirror" are two beautiful songs that still shine, "Heroin" and "European Son" foreshadow Sonic Youth et al. and "There She Goes Again" is much better than the hippie songs you identify it with. The hippies, for the most part, were a bunch of bored kids looking for a group to belong to (like most youth cultures); the Velvets were outcasts who didn't give a damn.

dwingert@terra.cc.oh.us (Deb)
First off, anybody who doesn't like the Velvet Underground is an ignorant prick. While studio weasels that you enjoy like the Beatles were off making dull, predictable records that you couldn't distinguish from the other, the Velvets were at least trying something different. The Velvets told the truth when it came to gritty subject matter like sex and drugs, and they only way they could do that was with music that was aggressive and unusual. Heaven forbid a musical group try something unusual for once. People like you are probably the same folks who listen to dull, predictable bands like Matchbox 20 and 3rd Eye Blind and hate any band that has a unique, original musical style.You'd rather listen to the same stale rock cliches that dime-a -dozen bands churn out now. What a wuss you are. The Velvets were, and still are, the greatest rock band alive, and if they were on the radio, they'd still be more exciting than half the crap on the air.

waterloo78@aol.com
another thing that seems to be forgotten, the velvet underground & nico was recorded in early '66 (but released in '67 due to label problems), so should be lisetened to in that contrast. it ranks up there with blonde on blonde, revolver, aftermath, and face to face, released around the same time.

cjkdesig@flash.net
One of the ten greatest albums ever made in my opinion. Finest VU work in their ouerve. "Sunday Morning" is hypnotic and dreamy, "Waiting For the Man," "Run Run Run" and "There She Goes Again" are friggin' awesome rock songs. Cale's viola scrapes on "Venus In Furs" are what make the song, NOT Reed's lyrics--the same practically goes for "Heroin" as well (although those words have an incaculable impact on future musicians). "All Tomorrow's Parties" and "Femme Fatale" are practically ruined by Nico's voice, although she does a good job on "I'll Be Your Mirror" and "Black Angel's Death Song" is one freaky-sounding tracks once again helped out by Cale's awesome viola. The final song, "European Son," is best described as a sneak preview of what White Light/White Heat would sound like. Required listening.

jltichenor@earthlink.net (James L. Tichenor)
Wow, a couple years ago i wouldn't have agreed with you on the Velvet Underground and Nico Mark, but now.... Wow it's pretty bad that the only way i can listen to this record now is if i smoke weed. That ain't a compliment for them. I like his lyrics and all, but yeah... the punk rock side of me wants to smash some fucking LIFE into these recordings. They just drag and drag and drag. Like i said- good with marijuana- otherwise- sedate me first before putting this one on.

bgreenstein@nctimes.net (Ben Greenstein)
I'll agree on one thing - "Heroin" is an incredibly boring song that goes absolutely nowhere. But, however awful Nico's voice is, she can't stink up "All Tommorows Parties," with its great drums and that cool piano thing. The other songs she sings are good, too, but I think that Lou should have told Andy to screw himself when he suggested letting her in the band, and just sang them himself. I mean, did they honestly expect a german model with no talent to make them sound better? I give this an eight - it's not my favourite, but it's still pretty entertaining. "Waiting For The Man" is great, too.

dopowell@startext.net (Rorschach)
This isn't punk music, which explains why a lot of bad reviews have been posted here, but without this here album, punk might not have gone anywhere. There's a ton of weird, 67 style fucked up songs like venus in furs, black angel, etc. This is definetly a better choice for those who don't want to hear the ramones overtones on every album they have.

michael.blume@gte.net
Velvet Underground and Nico is a great album. I don't know why you think to yourself that "Heroine" sucks out all of one's energy really badly. It's friggin' cool, dude (especially the viola noise, man, that ROCKS)! It sounds like a pre-Relayer masterpiece. Nico has a really cool voice, so what's up with you bad-mouthing her? Huh? "Femme Fatale" rules as well, you dig?

Also, Lou Reed has such a groovy voice. Wicked lyrics will rule the day. My point? Like I said, it's a great album, so up yours! A 7 out of 10 for making one feel like trying to stay awake while driving a car down an endless stretch of highway at dusk while it is lightly sprinkling outside and knowing it's about five more hours to go? No way. NO FUCKIN' WAY!!!! On the other hand, you were dead-on about "European Son". The first 30 seconds of it are pleasant, but the rest of it plummets into a snoozed-out jam through and through and through and through and through and through and.............EEEEEEEHHHHHHHH. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

Anyways, despite your dispicable bias against the Velvet Underground, all the other songs are amazing. A 9/10 for this shellac!

InMyEyes82@aol.com (Zach English)
Oh, really guys...all these Velvet disses are just breaking my heart! How can you not see the icy beauty in Nico's voice, the way Lou's lyrics create a window into another world, the mesmerizing viola swimming above the kick and grind of the rhythm section....jeez. Learn to wean yourself OFF of punk rock for an hour or so and see something from the other side of the tracks. This is not "boring", or "depressing", or "too arty"...it's real, and it's gritty, and it's the truth. The songs are just pure beauty to these ears, and the claim that the album is tiresome blows my mind. I LOVE how Maureen's drums don't splash and kick all over the place, just staying that breezy little rhythm she knew so well. The melodies are incredible, and only strengthen the lyrics' impact. I mean, honestly, guys...let's put down the Ramones album that we've probably heard billions of times (through them AND every other fast punk band) and just see something original for a change.

mjamison@psln.com (Michael Jamison)
Okay, first off, boys, Nico has the most awesome voice ever. She's just a bad ass, what can I say? And the low quality sound only inhances the great Velvet Underground-ness of it. Like their live bootleg stuff. It's just such a great sound for them. And Lou Reed is the coolest dork ever.

fatdan_138@hotmail.com
hey, just saw your site.. great job! i LOVE your reviews on Black Flag, Minor Threat, The Dead Kennedys, and [last, and best] the Ramones! my favorite bands ever!

But wait.. you have reviewed one more band... one of my personal favorites, that i have often been slammed for listening to... the Velvet Underground!!

obvoiusely, you have done your homework on this band. you know [as does just about everybody now] the impact they had on underground music. I agree that the music is slow, too slow at times. I agree with your reviews on all the other albums... except for the first one.

i'd give that one a 9. Not a 10, it's too slow for that. But songs like "Heroin" and "Venus in Furs" really make you think about all the things that you consider to be "true" and/or "right" in your life, and whether or not they are quite as good as you thought. I love Lou Reed's words for that one reason. He may be a fucking asshole, but he was a musician, so what the hell, ya know?

also: one band for you to listen to -> the Minutemen. from what you said about Greg's guitar playing, i KNOW you'll love this band. I don't want to oversell them, though. Just goto SST Super Store and buy ANY of their albums, perferably their later, jazzier albums. you'll see what i mean.

anyhow, great page. visit mine if you want...

http://fatdan.cjb.net

cola@together.net (Brett Colasacco)
With The Velvet Underground & Nico and the subsequent White Light/White Heat, Lou Reed and the gang ground up the sacred cow of rock and roll. It took them until The Velvet Underground to actually form it into a hamburger. Loaded simply added the condiments.

richbunnell@home.com
Hoot mon is this album good. Sure, the stuff that most ears will pick up is the happy normal poppy stuff like "Sunday Morning" and "There She Goes Again"(GREAT song), but I for one like the bizarre dirgey stuff. "Heroin," for example. That's a cool song. It keeps speeding up and slowing down and there's this viola shreeking in the background and it all rules! Rules, I tells ya! "European Son" blows, though, and even though Nico's three songs are all great melody-wise, they should've just told Andy Warhol to go to hell and let Lou sing those songs too. The album is still very deserving of a nine.

Also, I agree with someone else on this page that if you really HATE the Velvets, you'd might as well give them ratings that indicate this. 7 means "good, no bones about it," remember?

mstreet@asiaonline.net (Malcolm Street)
Er, I actually like Nico's voice on this album; it adds an extra tone of the exotic and wierd to it. In particular I think it works brilliantly on "All Tomorrows' Parties", with its doom-laden atmosphere and lyrics of loneliness in the big city.

How on earth can this album send anyone to sleep? Waiting For the Man, Run Run Run, Heroin are three of the most snarling pieces of rock n roll I've ever heard? I also like European Son with its wild sound-scapes, as someone said, a sneak preview of White Heat, White Light, the thoroughly creepy Venus in Furs, All Tomorrow's Parties and Black Angel's Death Song and the contrast provided by the lighter songs in the collection, which nevertheless have their own sting in the tail.

One of my all-time favourite albums and one which richly deserves its reputation as a ground-breaking masterpiece. Side 1 is one of rock's greatest achievements. So there!

jason_a@earthlink.net (Jason Adams)
The album cover is really great. I think Warhol was experimenting with his own celebrity, seeing if he could increase an album's value just by putting his name in big script letters on the front. With a banana, of course. As for the album, it's interesting but overrated. I think critics give it extra points because of its history, but half the tracks just don't do anything. The other half, though.

cloud_149@yahoo.com (Rorschach)
Ahh, VU & Nico. I'm surprised that this album garners as much hate and resentment as it does on this page. I'd compare it to a movie like Citizen Kane, whose ideas have been reused and reinterpreted so many times over the years that it gets that not-so-fresh feeling. What we have here, ladies and germs, is the introduction of art into rock and roll and for the most part, the beginning of "underground" music. I don't know how many people realize this, but this album was recorded in its entirety in the early months of 1966, though it was not released until nearly a year later. This album was created before Revolver and Pet Sounds were unleashed upon an unsuspecting world, when psychedelic music was just in its infancy, and several decades before anything close to this kind of music would be popular. Its often been said that very few people heard this record back in the sixties, but everyone who did formed their own band. We've got the primal sound of Run, Run, Run taking a riff and plowing it into the ground, the avant garde drone of Black Angel's Death Song, the lush delicate pop of the Nico songs, and lyrics that would have almost certainly been scrutinized by a Congressional committee had this album sold in anything close to respectable numbers. To rag on this album is to disregard the enormous impression it made on all unpopular music that followed, and I'll be damned if it is not granted its rightful place amongst the revolutionary music of the world.

Jcjh20@aol.com
I agree, overrated album, but there are indeed some really beautiful stuff on here though, "Sunday Morning" for instance. "There She Goes Again" is a very nice song as well, that REM have actually covered (They also covered "Femme Fatale", which is a nice song as well). I actually like Nicos vocals on here as well, they are quite nice (although they should of just let Lou sing the songs). I actually like "Heroin" as well, its slow as shit (clocking in at 7 min) but i seem to enjoy it. Definatly some dull spots here and there, so all and all id give it an 8.

Muggwort@aol.com
i am kind of torn about the Velvet Underground and Nico on one hand it captivates me and starts up my imagination with songs like "run, run, run", "waiting for my man" and "Venus in furs" on the other it kind of bores me with songs like "black angles death song", "European son", "femme fatale" and "Sunday mourning" so I would have to give it a high 7.

useless_creep@hotmail.com (Steve)
I love this album, but aside from "All Tomorrow's Parties", Nico's songs are ruined by her HORRENDOUS voice. She has the worst voice this side of a Golden Throats compilation.... it sounds like Warhol exhumed Eva Braun's corpse, brought it back to life, shot it full of smack, then stuck it front of a microphone. Nico's voice alone brings this record down to an 8.

gray0187@tc.umn.edu (Jon)
I completely agree. I think image and attitude are posturing as music most of the time for the Velvet Underground. Let folk get a few years older and they won't be pulling this record out very often. Once the novelty wears off, it sounds really really boring and uninteresting. Also, bad experimental bands traditionally exist nowadays (and the VU are in this vein) because they can't hack the acceptable trend. The best catchy songs of VU are not in the same vein of catchiness as the best by the Police or Beatles or what have you. Now, those bands that have hacked the acceptable trend, whose songwriting is good enough, can expand to experimentalism with success and melodic punch rather than boring experimentalism that is for its own sake. The Beatles are this sort of band, Bob Dylan is another example. VU are weird and "experimental" because that's the only way they are interesting, and even then, they still aren't that interesting. Nico's voice is a terrible bore by the way, you don't have to sing poorly to add emotion or atmosphere to a song. They have their good points that I can appreciate(who doesn't), but they are so vastly overrated that I am inclined to dislike them more than they probably deserve. I would be more happy with liking the bits I do and suffer less grief for the parts I don't if they were some unknown indifferently approached band like Soft Machine or Unicorn. Rabid fans are always ignoring the flaws of their group, and to me that's not something a true fan would do. As for those who say "they are the best band ever!!!!" give yourself a year or two and you'll find out how wrong you were without exception. No band is the best ever.

Colin T.
greg bougopoulos knows where it's at. listen to him. if you are reading this and haven't heard this album yet, do yourself and get it. even if it you don't like it, you'll be affected (and that's never a bad thing).

andy@theleeches.com
As we in England say:

Bollocks.

This album is just as relevant as Sgt Pepper or Exile on Main St or any other "most influential record ever".

People who close their minds to any genre or style are bigots. So what if a particular sound doesn't light your fire? Dig deep enough & you'll probably find that the very thing you're decrying has had a major influence on some of your favourite bands.

To me, the story of a junkie is just as relevant as a McCartney ballad about a girl leaving home, just as sad, but no more or less important. And it makes no difference if the song in question is accompanied by a slick George Martin string arrangement, or by a strung-out raw as fuck speed-fuelled screech. So what if Nico sounds like some fuckup teutonic smackhead, after all that's what she was.

I've owned this record for 23 years & I still listen to it, still LISTEN to all the parts & inflections, & still get scared shitless by some of the darkness - in a century or two this record will have the same resonance as we currently perceive in Sibelius or Shostakovich.

vtxk@iup.edu (Dave Bates)
It would be inaccurate for me to call the Velvet Underground my favorite band, or to say that I really like feedback-induced noise (Led Zeppelin is my favorite band, and it doesn't get muchy more clean and studio-perfected than that). But The Velvet Underground and Nico is probably the single most important album of the 1960s, save for maybe Sgt. Pepper's. I think the problem that a lot of people have with the album is that it is raw--the sound quality is poor (compared to albums of the time), the feedback can be ear-splitting at times, and the vocals (especially Nico's) are nothing special. I personally enjoy listening to this record, but I can certianly understand why most people wouldn't. At the same time, I think we need to differentiate between reviewing based on preference and reviewing based on objective standards. Personally, I would call VU and Nico a great album because I can listen to it 5 times in a row and hear a different album every time. Using more objective standards (Ie, influence on later musicians), this is one of the 5 greatest records in the history of rock and roll--none of the art rock bands, punks, post-punks, indie rockers, "shoegazers," metal bands, or drug bands that followed ever would have existed without The VU, and this album in particular. I respect everyone's opinion about this being a bad record (especially considering how tough it can be to listen to), but at the same time, I think we need to take a good close listen to any serious rock album released after 1970--I guarantee you'll find a little "Heroin".

oliver5200@hotmail.com (Adam Bruneau)
I always think it's funny how people claim punk (and subsequently any truly meaningful post-70s rock) started with the VU and tend to sneer at the 'panty-waisted' efforts of the Beatles - doesn't it cross their mind that, in addition to restless experimentation, one of the major sources of inspiration for post-70s underground rock was it's older brother from the 60's? The tradition of bashing out garage/psych tributes to the very moptop heroes that indie snobs often tend to put down? Isn't it possible that, while the Velvet Underground were certainly influential in one way, the Beatles were in their way as well? And even other 'sell-out' groups like The Pink Floyd? David Bowie? The Doors?

Anyways, I do quite like this group, in fact I love them. And this album frequently battles with "VU" (the album) for the title of my favorite of the 60s; I give it 9/10. "Venus in Furs" is stunningly hypnotizing, and "I'm Waiting For the Man" is raw and simple mid-60s garage rock at it's best. But "European Sun" does tend to extremely bore me as it stretches out, starting out strong and, after the brilliant sound of shattering glass, ending up on a noisey plateau from which it never really develops.

The truth is, as inventive as the record is, Frank Zappa had already done 'weird' sound collages (side 4 of his debut), The Beatles had already recorded hypnotic drone-rock ("Tomorrow Never Knows", "Rain"), The Who had already written pop songs about confronting unorthodox sexuality ("I'm a Boy", "Happy Jack"), and The Pink Floyd, an entire continent away and featuring a genuinely insane lead singer/guitarist, had already begun putting on live multimedia presentations, complete with extended, droning jam sessions that, like the Velvets, bored the mass audience to tears. You can say, and rightfully so, that the Velvet Underground was tremendously influential, but I think it would be outright lying to deny the possibility that, maybe others had influenced them as well?

They weren't the end-all-be-all of punk rock. Nor underground rock. But yes, they played all these things and they did them darker and bleaker and rawer than anyone had yet. And Lou Reed has the coolest fucking voice in rock 'n' roll. And "Sunday Morning", especially when played at _just_ the right time under _just_ the right conditions, is a shimmering slice of heaven.

gray0187@tc.umn.edu (Jon)
IN answer to the guy that says VU will be appreciated like Shostakovich and Sibelius.... AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHA... ahem...

oh man.. 23 years of lsitening to that record... exit this roman shell-uh! ... hee hee

shosty and sibelius were kinda universally recognized as geniuses... lou reed dug up Beat poetry corpses and ripped off other pop songs (Marvin Gaye's HITCHHIKE FOR CHIRSSAKE!!!! HE STOLE A MARVIN GAYE SONG IN ITS ENTIRETY FROM A CORPORATE MOTOWN SONGWRITER AND ADDED DERIVATIVE LYRICS!!! PRETTY GODDAMN PUNKISH!)... you make the call

image is at work here, not talent. good thing shostakovicht was one ugly motherfucker.

andy@theleeches.com
in reply to gray0187.

"shosty" & sibelius were equally villified in their own time. shosty in particular got loads of shit for creating atonal, boring, irrelevant dirges. sibelius was a smack (ok, opium) head. sound familiar?

actually, a good deal of punk rock is about ripping off some corporate asshole and whacking on a bunch of derivative (or should the word be derisive!!) lyrics, well it is where i come from anyway - that's the fun.

image? well, i'd say lou reed ain't exactly brad pitt. & his 80's hairstyles were crimes against humanity & offensive to even a partially sighted guide dog. & what's the big deal with him anyway? a lot of people on this page seemed to have forgotton that john cale was just as (if not more) instrumental in their sound.

like i said, 100 years is time enough for some real objectivity. wish i could be around to prove it, my only solace being that though i'll be dead n rotting in some damp grave, so will jon of gray0187@tc.umn.edu fame!

jesus, how sad am i that i feel i have to defend my opinions in a naval-gazing my-dad's-bigger-than-your-dad verbal sparring duel? mass murder is about to be committed in our names by our oh-so-wise leaders, and here's me bickering about the 2 grooved sides of a lump of vinyl.

telecentrocampana@delta.com.ar
Here comes a guy from the lesser world.

Pero como no podía ser de otra manera voy a escribir mi crítica en mi idioma natal.

A mi modesto entender, el disco es impresionante debido a la gran variedad de matices que podemos observar en él, además teniendo en cuenta el contexto histórico del que ya se ha hablado bastante, yo le daría 9/10.

El disco comienza de manera magistral con un sonido angelical, el segundo tema nos demuestra con muy poco como ellos podían rockear!!, el tercer tema (grandioso) nos introduce quizas la primera rareza, una belleza germana con una voz impactante (o les cabe alguna duda que esa voz carente de matices es en realizad impactante), el cuarto tema (great!!!!!!!!!!!!) con Cale luciendose en sobremera, el quinto tema rock primal en excelencia, letra imponente (estupendo), el sexto tema (digno de The doors) tiene un piano armonioso y está lleno de climax.

Heroin un clásico, el octavo tema "Hitchhike"creo, no es basura hippie, lindos coros, lindos cambios de ritmo, es un tema digno de ser escuchado a altos decibeles´.

Luego Nico despertando mi deseo sexual nuevamente.

Lo demás no me interesa demasiado pero no me disgusta.

Quicksand1971@aol.com
One of the best albums vie heard. Since the first time I heard it drunk and stoned fell in love with it. Heroin without a question is the best song in this album. Lou Reed is a genus

Zophael979@aol.com
As far as late 60s underground groups go, I prefer both the midwestern punk sound of The Stooges (one of the best rock bands ever) and the MC5 (hippie slogans with loud guitars---a precursor to punk rock if there ever was one) to this stuff. Then again, it's an entirely different mood that the Velvets shoot for on this record. VU&NICO is very slow, mellow, and drugged out. It's good music to write to. Good music to relax to. Good music to OD to. You get the idea. This is dreamy pop music, guys. You'd be silly to mosh to any of it.

It opens with one of the Velvets best songs, the dreamy pop of "Sunday Morning", which would've been considered a classic of the classic rock era had someone like the Beatles recorded it. Other pop classics include "Femme Fatale", the lyrically anti-pop "There She Goes Again", and the one attempt to kinda rock out, "Run Run Run". Of the less poppy stuff, "I'm Waiting For the Man" is kinda good in the way Sonic Youth can be kinda good...you can't rock out to it, but it has a cool hynoptic sorta sound and the singer (Lou Reed, in this case) has a really cool voice. "Venus in Furs", while sporting that weird Indian psychedelic sound that was all the rage in 60s psychelia, managed to rub me the right way.

However, the most powerful moment here is definately "Heroin". Whether it be the too-drugged-out-to-rock sound of the instruments or Lou Reed's powerful vocal performance, this song manages to send chills up my spine.

It's not all good, though---and don't let anyone tell you that it is. Nico absolutely slaughters the otherwise decent "All Tomorrow's Parties" with her horrendous vocal performance (she did fine in her other two numbers though, especially "Femme Fatale"). Also, the last two songs on the record are just boring, overlong drones.

Sure, there's a lot of pretentious arty stuff, but there's some quality pop in here too and some of the pretentious arty stuff isn't half bad. As long as you don't come into this expecting the hard and fast Ramones-style stuff (and who in their right mind would?), you should find something to like. Or you could just invest in some Funhouse or in some Kick Out the Jams if you want to hear something better. Whichever.

***1/2 out of *****

perfectpitch@sbcglobal.net (Pat Shipp)
"...none of the songs are beautiful enough to become hypnotic". Aw c'mon Mark, you've got to be kidding me. Take one more listen to "Sunday Morning" and tell me that isn't beautiful and hypnotic. I find it funny that every time somebody bashes Lou Reed's singing abilities, they never mention this song. Probably because narrow-minded people hate to be proved wrong.

Anyway, I hate to sound like I'm jumping on the bandwagon, but I think this album is a masterpiece. The lyrics, the playing, and above all, the MOOD of these songs are simply in a world of their own. Apart from the gorgeous "Sunday Morning", you have cool, ass-whoopin' punk rockers like "I'm Waiting For The Man" and "Run Run Run". That's right, the roots of punk rock lie in this album. And many a punk band would eventually cite this as a huge influence on their careers.

And what about "Venus In Furs"? God, if that's not hypnotizing, then NOTHING is. Probably the most hypnotizing song that I have ever heard. And I love the line "Taste the whip, now bleed for me", though I still can't quite decipher what it's about. "There She Goes Again" is a hilarious song about a prostitute, again done in that special Velvet Underground style. The songs with Nico are a mixed bag. "All Tomorrow's Parties" isn't really all that great, but "Femme Fatale" is CREEPY AS HELL. I'm serious. It is the darkest, most eerie song I've ever heard. Nico manages to give me scared-shitless goosebumps with her unusual vocals. And "I'll Be Your Mirror" is painfully emotional.

But the last two songs, "The Black Angel's Death Song" and "European Son", pretty much suck. Basically just a bunch of noise and noodling. However, the other songs MORE THAN make up for it.

Oh yeah, and "Heroin" is a cool song but much too overrated.

lettfer@web.de (Lettfers Art)
Good day to you Mr. Prindle,

And yet again you've proven that's you prefer large dick to small cunt. Calling Heroin a bad song is like saying .... hmm like saying heroin sucks. You fucking asshole your wrong about everything you write. But since you get depressed everytime you like in the mirror I'll just skip the possitive stuff.

This one hell of an album. Also Nico is a bad singer with less talent than you, Reed could bring her in the place. The rest nice, too this a must have - Mr. Prindle is a must kill.

Fuck you

dead-beat@socal.rr.com
There was a point in my life where I could have recited every lyric on this fucking album. This album and the Velvets' other works paled everything I have listened to before then.

God a song like "Heroin" which was the first thing I heard of this album. It's so beautiful. The sound of the viola gives the sense of the syrienge piercing through your skin. The words are so fucking right on for the music. There's something beautiful about almost all these songs (maybe not "European Son" it's just an awesome rocker). "Venus in Furs" is without question the song that inspired the goth movement.

The Velvets were a big fuck you statement to the rest of the shit going on in the 60's. Maybe the Rolling Stones looked the part first but the Velvets really didn't give a fuck what anybody thought. Don't let the Warhol entourage fool you.

uglytruth@hotmail.com (Hossein Nayebagha)
On the Stones American version of Out Of Our Heads, there's a song called "Hitch Hike", or at least that's what I'd guess going by the chorus. I just wrote a reader comment noting a similarity between a song by the Strokes vs. Tom Pettey. These things happen all the time. BUT, it pisses me off that I've turned 22 and I had to hear this on my own, here that "There She Goes Again" is pretty much plagarism, next to "Hitch Hike". It's not just a matter of basics, same rhythm, same breaks... I don't care if it's just a coinsidence or what, it sounds just like it, and yet, no one has ever said a god damn thing... I mean we're talking about two legendary bands here. Oh and no one needs to point out that the Stones one is a cover, that's irrelevant... Also I have no idea how much or how little it's been rearranged.

As for VU&N... Why bother commenting on everyone's darling band. I like it... I also find Nico's vocals a bit stupid, but they don't bother me, and it's actually pleasant on "Femme Fatale"... And it's cute how she pronounced "parties" on that other song. "Sunday Morning" would be my favourite... Rating? I don't know, maybe 8/10.

spinaltomek@hotmail.com
Many people seem to hate this one for the same reasons and still like and dislike different songs. Personally I think "Sunday Morning" is one of the most perfect songs ever recorded. So pleasent, so calming. "Venus in Furs" features a really cool, dark mood and "All Tomorrow's Parties" is (although sung by aweful Nico) is in the same spirit and very catchy..."I'm Waiting For My Man" and "The Black Angel's Death Song" are also cool, the rest is boring, slow, generic crap. Even the noisy "European Son"...okay, there's noise, but they don't know how to do it properly, it's just a band dicking around, so why bother?

And: the drummer seems quite afraid of using cymbals and her snare almost all of the time... This makes "the Velvet Underground & Nico" the most not-rocking rock (or whatever) record ever.

browningub40@peoplepc.com
Just a few comments about this album i'd like to share here:First of all, it's nowhere near as bad as you seem to think it is.It's great actually, better than anything made today. Secondly, I'd like to add that the main reason I believe you mentioned for disliking it was that it's way too slow, well, personally I think that is one of the reasons i like em. It seems like every other band around that time was trying to speed things up too fast, as least they were trying something different. By the way you mentioned that they are a late sixties band, actually they came out in early 1965 making them a mid sixties band, they came out at about the same time as the fugs did. This album was recorded in '65 by the way, just not released until later.

OSLANE@student.gvsu.edu
my friend and I were discussing this - and I think this album is a perfect example - debating, I suppose, how one should view music, either in the context of the time and what it stood for/its place in history or what a person would think about it just by listening to it with no context behind it.

I guess it's personal preference, I probably like this album a lot more than you, since those things you hate are things I like, including nico's "stormtrooper vocals", but, amongst other things, to deny its importance is a bit off considering how many bands you can point directly to it... and i even inlcude the stooges, who I love way more than vu, but to deny the "I'm waiting for the man" influence on "I wanna be your dog"? also the shrill metallic and percussive guitar style seem to have been directly adapted into the sound of both modern lovers and talking heads, the avante noise making seems to have influenced bands like pere ubu and the fall and I guess the no nonsense street sensible lyrics and lack of musical skill influenced punk bands. dee dee ramone even said he wrote "chinese rocks" to top lou reede's "heroine."t it stood for/its place in history or what a person would think about it just by listening to it with no context behind it.

ninestraycats@gmail.com
well, nico's voice is certainly an understandable reason for blowing off the songs she sings on, but that's unfortunate, since otherwise they're really great songs (i shouldn't say otherwise, i personally have come to like her voice, but it certainly took a loooong time). all tomorrow's parties is pretty rollicking, although also pretty druggy. the other two songs are just GORGEOUS pop songs. very mellow mood, great songwriting.

i totally see where you're coming from with your complaints about this album. i guess it's hard to call it a CLASSIC, only because the songwriting isn't always top notch. but it is fucking marvelous. the sound of the album, the lyrics, godamn, that mood! i can see its influence and how it was a big deal back then in 1967. when the v/u do weird shit, like black angel's death song, venus in furs, they're great. when they do long jams, like i'm waiting for the man, all tomorrow's parties, they're great. when lou reed writes a great song (he IS a greate songwriter), like femme fatale, i'll be your mirror, they're great. but the somewhat generic pop of there she goes again, for example, isn't balls to the wall glorious. run run run is more or less in the same vein, although it does have a pretty wild guitar "solo." there's that weirdness again!

Kevin
Maybe boring in places but so were a lot of the 60's rock genre bands. See what happened to John Lennon when he cut loose from The Beatles and created the masterpiece "The Plastic Ono Band." In any case, each time I play The Jesus and Mary Chain, among others, I feel truly blessed by The Velvet Underground. If you don't have it on vinyl, get it on eBay and warm up your turntable for a sonic treat!!

nineinchgoth@hotmail.com
I can completely understand what you (and others) dislike about this album. It's not for everyone, and it'll probably take a few listens until you even vaguely appreciate it, but in my humblest of opinions it's a fine debut and probably the best entry point. After all, THE VELVET UNDERGROUND was about 90% gentle (though sardonic) tunes, and WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT is their noisiest effort overall; VU&N finds a nice middle ground between those two extremes. Oh, and I do actually like Nico, but her voice was far better suited for her abstract solo efforts (THE MARBLE INDEX, DESERTSHORE, etc.).

Ben
This is an overrated album, but it's still good. It's just that the bad stuff on the album ("Heroin", "Black Angel's Death Song" and "European Son") is very bad. Long depressing dirges with a bunch of lame sound effects. I don't mind Nico, but I'd like it better if Lou sang her songs. I'll give this a 7. Favorite is "I'm Waiting for the Man".

Elliot Imes
Thank you so much for trashing, or at least not praising, The Velvet Underground & Nico. I listened to it for the first time last night, and I am furious that this record has been worshipped and revered for so long. There is almost nothing enjoyable about it! Nico’s involvement is an absolute embarrassment and proves it shouldn’t be taken seriously as music. It was just a commercial product with a model awkwardly inserted into it. The actual quality of the recording is lackluster, with a quiet rhythm section being completely drowned out by inappropriately loud (and sloppy) guitar solos. Too many songs are directionless, noisy exercises in boredom. The only thing that band excelled at was creating an aura of cool around themselves that somehow convinced people to like them at the risk of looking unhip. And that same pressure to like it or be unhip has carried on for almost the last 50 years, with sad losers falling for it every year. But not you and I!

Add your thoughts?

White Light/White Heat - Verve 1968.
Rating = 6


This one starts off very promising, with a couple of noisy, catchy blues-rockers heralding an unexpectedly energetic and amphetamine-happy new sound. Then "The Gift" gives us a great story set to a spiffy Stonesish melody, and "Lady Godiva's Operation" has some hilarious overdubbed Lou vocals that'll set your tummy a-rolling. After that, though.... Holy ships.

See, I'm told that some people consider the 16-minute "Sister Ray" to be a classic noise epic. I don't. It bores the hell out of me. It sounds like The Monkees trying to be a wild psychedelic band. Lou keeps singing about somebody sucking on his ding-dong, the drumbeat NEVER becomes hypnotic, the noise is too tinny to kick ass, and they just keep repeating the same dull musical ideas over and over and over and over again for a full quarter-hour. To hear this sort of thing done correctly, please see Pink Floyd's "Interstellar Overdrive," recorded one year earlier for their Piper At The Gates Of Dawn LP.

Man, I fucking hate this band. Should I go get McDonald's? It's kinda late in the day, and I don't wanna spoil my dinner, but I'm a little bit hungry. Ahh screw it, it's snowing. I'll just eat a magazine.

Reader Comments

corpsebag@hotmail.com
How original!!! Seriously a twenty minute songs consisting of Lou Reed rapping (or how they would put kicking out rhymes but we know it's a 60's version of rapping) over 2 chords for 20 minutes!!!!!!!! "Sister Ray" is the best song ever written. "Here She Comes Now" makes me cry, and "White Light / WHite Heat" makes me wanna play drums. Who cares- great album.

Weigelda@aol.com (Dave Weigel)
I'd like to go on the record and say that "Corpsebag" is a fucking moron. "Sister Ray" is the best song ever written? Jesus Christ!

This is the VU's worst record, by far. "The Gift" gets boring after a few listens, and "Sister Ray" is an abomination, so that means, um, about 28 MINUTES of this album is garbage! The four pop songs are okay, "Here She Comes Now" being the best but they all have this weird feedback vibe that really gets boring. They sound like early Pink Floyd wannabees (by the way, take Mark's recommendation and buy Pink Floyd's first album. It blows this shit away). 4/10

yearzero@earthlink.net (Chris Collins)
A bit better than the debut, but still... for something this distorted, it's amazingly un-rocking and drained of energy. "The Gift" and "Here She Comes Now" are good. "Sister Ray"... a proto-punk masterpiece? Naw, it's just plodding and boring.

azitelli@stevens-tech.edu
i haven't heard any of their other albums. my friend gave me this one. i like it. i don't know what i was expecting. ummmm...for that era, it seems to kick the ass of anything...but i've never heard any of that old pink floyd stuff......although, it's actually not as exciting as most of the post punk stuffffffff..........sister ray and the gift can get boring, but after not hearing them for awhile, they blow you away...the gift creeps me out, too...and i like the feedbackness...but i heard her call my name just sounds too much like pavement...my favorite is the lady godiva song, it's pretty bizarre in my book...

oh by the way, just kidding about the pavement thing, they ripoff the VU sometimes, i just want some guy to get all pissed off when he reads that and write an EMail to me saying that i'm an idiot and i can just laugh at him...........

bougopgs@eckerd.edu (Gregory S. Bougopoulos)
I agree that "Sister Ray" is too long but it is still better than most stupid "jams" many groups decide to unleash upon audiences. "Lady Godiva's Operation" and "Here She Comes Now" are my two favorites off here. A 9.

dwingert@terra.cc.oh.us (Deb)
I really pity you. Your musical taste is so limited that you can't recognize the Velvet Underground as the greatest musical group of all time. You probably enjoy studio weasels like the Beatles, whose albums all sound the same. At least the Velvets tried interesting new musical approaches. You're just an ignorant prick with your head so far in the sand that you won't touch any musical group with a unique style. If the Velvets were on the radio today, they'd still be better than most of the dull crap that passes as rock these days. Of course, you probably enjoy that boring crap, don't you?

Waterloo78@aol.com
you'd be hard-pressed to come up with another guitar solo as fucked-up (yet sweet-sounding) then the one on I Heard Her Call My Name. Sister Ray also is nice.

huckcherry@hotmail.com (Xavier Fabriano)
I usually don't agree with Lester Bangs, but I'm just going to have to agree with him here. I don't think you're really tuned into the aesthetic of this band. Whether you want to admit it or not, these guys had a huge influence on a number of people. This was one of the first bands to almost completely avoid the use of cymbals (which take up the frequencies of the guitar) which was a technique made popular by 80's King Crimson and Peter Gabriel. So there it is - rock cliche number one - gone. As other readers have said, with the exception of a few, there is really no band that at that time that approached the brilliant brutality of Lou Reed. He wasn't singing about the trends of the day. Even ballsy psychedelic pop groups like Jefferson Airplane ever got that ballsy. Rock cliche number two - gone. Now, look at the background of John Cale, an acolyte of Aaron Copland and John Cage who arrived to America on a Leonard Bernstein scholarship. As you know, he played electric viola (the most "avant garde" thing about their sound). How many rock bands before that experemented with that? You can name a million and one art rock bands that did that afterwards. Rock cliche number three - gone (and created). Don't forget their influence on bands (and they were a million times better than the Stooges, but the Stooges are affecting in their own way). For better or worse, they influenced a million punk/alternative bands, and surprise surprise, even Donald Fagen of Steely Dan admitted that Walter Becker and himself had originally planned to build a band in the mold of the Velvet Underground, chanteuse included. The most successful thing an artist can do is to get the desired effect from his/her audience. They got the effect they wanted. Conjured up the feelings, images, senses, that they wanted. To me, that is what makes something truly successful.

cjkdesig@flash.net
Classic. Practically paved the way for punk and Sonic Youth (who are in a class all by their own). Title song is great, "The Gift" a wonderful black comedy read by Cale in a deadpan tone (I also like the part where Reed, Cale and Morrison go "Ahhhhhhhh" after the line "...and he wasn't there), and "Lady Godiva's Operation" is one of the creepiest songs I've ever heard. "Here She Comes Now" is a nice, QUICK poppy song, "I Heard Her Call My Name" is a pretty cool meshing of feedback, free jazz and Beatle-like backup singing. And as for "Sister Ray" ... well, it's one hell of a powerhouse, but after the ten-minute mark, you say to yourself "Enough is enough." Still essential though for historical reasons.

jltichenor@earthlink.net (James L. Tichenor)
First off- i'd just like to send a big FUCK YOU to dwingert (or Deb) up there. See, the problem is that she spoke badly of the Beatles- calling them "studio weasels" and saying "all the records sound the same." Hmmm.....

hehehe.

You stupid cuntrag. Does anyone else find her coments laughably stupid? I wonder if she's ever even actually sat through a whole Beatles album. They were one of the mostly artistically progressive bands- never afraid to change and very prolific and especially VERY diverse. But thats the funny thing- taste in music that is (and opinions thereof)- cuz shes saying the Underground were the "greatest musical group of all time." does anyone else find this absurd? There were good for a few things but not becuz of their music itself. And as for the statement that they were trying various new music approaches..... *snicker* Lou Reed is still doing the SAME shit today which is what- 30 years later?

Anyway- aside from the anti-production i dont see whats so goddam "underground" about the velvet underground. Drugs were making it into the lyrics by the late 60's so they weren't revolutionaries or anything. God, i dont find anyone else more annoying than ppl who think the Velvet Underground is the best band in the world- except of course for all the morons who like the Backstreet Boys. God i hope they suffer painful deaths..... Anyway... oh im rambling, sorry. hehe

bgreenstein@nctimes.net (Ben Greenstein)
Another 8, like the first album. The title track is great, catchy, and loud - I would have liked a less abrupt intro, but I love the way Lou (or whoever) giggles in that wild fifties style. They actually sound happy! Until the end, when the feedback takes over. "The Gift" is quite spooky - like a good spoken word song should be. I really like "Lady Godiva's Operation," which is both mysterious/atmospheric and catchy/bouncy. "Here She Comes Now" is a little out of place, but still quite good, and "I Heard Her Call My Name" is one of the best uses of feedback ever. Kind of grating, but somehow irresistable. And "Sister Ray" (which does ruin the album) would have been great if it had only been edited. Start turning down your CD player at 6:00 and you'll see what I mean. The should have filled the rest of the album with fully-fleshed versions of those fine demos on the box set. Made spooky, of course.

I actually just got into this band recently. I borrowed the box set from a friend, and I'll be damned if he's getting it back anytime soon. The Velvets are so cool sounding - very interesting, unlike a lot of bands. I still hate "Heroin," but the rest of the songs are just so damn good it makes me want to sock someone. Probably Prindle, seeing as he hates 'em so much.

InMyEyes82@aol.com
It's pretty easy to see why Bangs loved this album so much: speed was his drug of choice, and more than anything, White Light is a speed album. The title track is the choppier "Heroin" that sings of heads and toes and the excitement you get from an amphetamine rush, and almost every song here revolves around drugs, sex, and Dionysian detachment to the point that it's almost comical. Nietzche as aural splatter. Song quality is stellar, though; I agree WHOLEHEARTEDLY that "Sister Ray" goes on too damn long (I usually cut off at 'bout ten minutes into it), but it's such a powerful little chug-chug thing that the Fall would later exploit to great results ("Slates, Slags, Etc." being almost a direct extrapolation of "Sister Ray") and the lyrics are disturbing/funny. "Here She Comes Now" is heavenly. 9/10

mstreet@asiaonline.net (Malcolm Street)
Not as good or cohesive as the first album IMHO and to me the most dated-sounding of their albums; it really sounds like a late '60's psychadelic piece. The title track is massively overshadowed by the later version on "Rock n Roll Animal".

That said, there's some bits I really like. "The Gift" is a nasty black comedy, "I Heard Her Call My Name" is a wild distortion exercise a la "European Son" and "Sister Ray" is, well, Sister Ray... After listening to it for over 20 years I'm not sure I actually *like* Sister Ray, but I keep on playing it. It's as if the song has me hypnotised like the stare of a cobra; maybe it fascinates me more than anything with its manic energy and relentless pace. Certainly one of the most extraordinary and unique tracks in the history of rock, and a mile ahead of the boring, rambling hippy crap of "Interstellar Overdrive", which I also have on vinyl and *never* play.

And after that John Cale left, the wild experimentation dropped off, and they became Lou Reed's backing group...

JohnnyB8@aol.com
I agree with Mr. Tichenor. How in the hell can you call the VU better than the Beatles? The Beatles were rock and roll. No if, ands, or buts about that. The Underground were ok, for the type of crapola music they were doing, but they were by no means better than the Fab Four. Hey Deb, i give your musical intelligence rating a 2/10.

skrockout@aol.com
i believe that this album deserves much more than a 7. it's just an excellent punk rock record. i love the fact that they can use only one riff for a whole song, and it still will sound fucking great. "don't drag me down", "through these eyes", "dear lover"....ah, it's just awesome. a great album.

Brian
I think the whole debate over White Light/White Heat stems from a severe difference in tastes among the reviewers on this page. Involving those who dig the Velvet Underground, there are probably two main "camps" that I can think of: those who like the mellow/harmonic side of the Velvet's catalog, and those who live for lo-fi noise freakouts.

White Light/White Heat delivered in spades for those in the "noise fest" category. Nearly every song on this album involves or centers around squalling, feedback-laden guitars and tribal percussion. I LOVE it, but I can see where many have complaints.

In my personal experience, this was the first album I ever heard by the Velvet Underground. But NONE of the other work by VU even comes close to sounding as primal and noisy as WL/WH. So, I was kinda disappointed with the rest of their works. This album is a direct challenge to the sappy crap coming out in the 60's, which is perhaps why it is regarded as so legendary. I give WL/WH a 10.

On another note: Pink Floyd? I don't think VU and Pink Floyd are even comparable. Pink Floyd were more commercial (yes, commercial), "progressive" (he he), and - for the most part - boring. I outgrew Pink Floyd by 15. VU weren't THE greatest, but at least they were confrontational, nihilistic, and totally unconventional. What's uncool about that?

Colin T.
i kind of agree with that last guy... but i think this album synthesizes the two camps he's talking about... whatever this is one is amazing as well; my favorite of theirs. beautifully recorded, a life changing thing...... if you have the ear for that sort of thing. sister ray, in case you doubt (you doubter) is crazy

dead-beat@socal.rr.com (Taeil Kim)
Hands down this album is thirty years ahead of its time. For instance look at how King's Missile's "Detachable Penis" became a hit, and it's story to music idea was from "THe Gift".

Shit, Lady Godiva could be a college radio hit right now. When listening to the song I thought they displayed a great sense of humor. You know where Reed's voice is set so high compared to Cale's. But I found out that they just actually fucked up. It's still funny. Rest of the songs are flat out awesome.

So much feuding going on here about this band. I don't know why the Velvets and Beatles fans just don't mix for some reason. Why can't we all get along and eat shrooms?

ddickson@rice.edu
This maketh no sense. I likest thine album more thanst thou. This fucketh up thee works. Can you tell it's 5 in the morning for me????

Anyway, this album I expected to hate, especially after hating "European Son" and "Waiting for the Man" from the previous album. I don't hate it. If anything, this seems more focused than anything else they ever released. "Lady Godiva", "I Heard Her Call" and the title track are honest- to goodness catchy POP SONGS, just disguised with tons and tons of distortion. And "Sister Ray"--well, I AM a frickin' brainwashed sell-out pop- lover, and Def Leppard rules, but dammit, so does this song. Worth every one of its 800 drone minutes. I give the album a nine, 'cause there's only five real songs on it. If they'd slapped a cover of "Lovely Rita" on it, it woulda gotten an easy ten. Good album from a normally not-so-good band. Prithee, et cetera.

madminion@ecentral.com
I would agree that the VU&Nico is pretty overrated, but definitely a good (maybe great) album. I can take someone talking shit about it. But this...

Do you have any idea where ANY of the bands you like from the seventies on would be if it wasn't for this? You give the Beach Boys 10 stars and yet say this is dated. You give Yes TEN FUCKING STARS but say that Sister Ray is too long and boring.

I agree a lot with your more recent reviews (Swans, Scratch Acid, Jesus Lizard, PiL, Ramones, Black Flag) but you need to get it that none of this would be the same if it wasn't for the Velvets. I would bet that about half of the bands you have here own this.

agakhan@mac.com (J.H. Malerman)
Eh. On White Light/White Heat, I must say that the "responders" here are some of the most vulgar, juvenile excuses for ramblers here. I like the Beatles, though I wish I'd heard more. But I am quite fond of the VU because at their poppiest are nearly fun and light-hearted, though sleepier or quirkier than most; At their least they took garage rock and experimental musicianship to the next level of dementia. "Sister Ray" is too long, I agree, but you totally ignored the very pleasant "Here She Comes Now" and psychotic/catchy "I Heard Her Call My Name". Shame on you, for polarizing idiots like that!

ktotheatothei@comcast.net
Haha, as Richard Hell said, I find your site amusing. What the hell are you trying to prove,? You dissect every album and pluck out any originality as being "boring", your the kind of person who can't sit through a decent movie because it doesn't have enough "action" in it. Also may i add that your site serves no purpose whatsoever, you're critiquing albums that have been written years ago in a environment and scene which you were not part of nor have any understanding of. The Velvet Underground are about as psychedelic as Andy Warhols' art. You're critique of this album is entirely superficial and misunderstood, this album was released in 1969 19 FUCKING 69, this pre-dated the entire CBGB NY scene by years, and your rating the Who higher. Not all art is pleasant to look at, if it was, what would be the point of it? Of course you wouldn't know what art is if it bit you in the ass.

tvd123@mac.com
Great site, Mark, but you've really got to give Sister Ray and WLWH another shot. Judging by your other reviews you may just need to give this one another listen. You make a big deal out of King Crimson distorting their bass, well, listen to John Cale distorting his organ and see what he does with it. While you're at it, you should really listen to John Cale's catalogue, I find it to be much more interesting and satisfying than Lou's any day of the week.

anya.ciccone@gmail.com
Just wanted to say that I was searching online for people who hated the Velvet Underground, and what do you know - i didn't have to look very far, because your awesome website once again writes exactly what i am thinking (well, most of the time).

Man, do the Velvet Underground suck or what?! I mean, 'White Light/White Heat' is good for about 4 minutes, but... you know what? it really isn't. I wasted so much time trying to like this band in high school that when I hear them i actually shudder. Yuck.

thepublicimage79@hotmail.com
Now I must contribute my (chipped/rusted) two cents about this album.

Firstly - these Velvet Underground reviews suck shit outta Hefty bags. This is definitely a page in need of rewriting. I don't mind your opinions, since they're innovative - even though I disagree with them - but damn, man, they're just way below your typical standard (except for the "Squeeze" review, which is genius, and the third album's review, which is fine). Don't take it personally, you know I still love the site.

Second - I don't know if I would have ever gotten into more "out-there" or "punk" music if it hadn't been for this album. I already liked Floyd, Zeppelin, Beatles, Stones, your general classics, but I decided to try out the Velvet Underground since they looked absolutely cool as hell and they had a viola in the band, and I was looking for interesting sounds. The one that sounded most kickass to me out of all their discography was this album, described inaccurately on Amazon, with a line about "Sister Ray" being ten minutes (try seventeen, you fucking moron amazon reviewer) of transcendently pounding fuzz. This sounded REALLY fucking cool to me, as I was a huge Floyd fanboy in high school and thus did not mind flatulent song lengths, and so I went and took it out of the library (well, I took out Volume Three of the "Peel Slowly And See" boxset, which they have all of in the library except for Volume Two). And did I like what I heard? I certainly did! It was a bunch of artsy noise! It was so terribly recorded it made most bootlegs sound like studio recordings! Whoever engineered this slab of dried vomit must've hated the band! You couldn't even hear the drums on the title track because the piano and bass were so overrecorded! In a couple songs the guitars would splatter feedback everywhere for no reason at all at completely random times! Lou Reed couldn't sing a fucking note and didn't even try to! They all sounded like they were high on speed! The lead guitar on "I Heard Her Call My Name" sounded like it had hydrochloric acid slowly corroding it from the inside out throughout the song! "Sister Ray" was a hideous-sounding pinchloaf of overbearing improvisation that was way too loud to easily ignore or fall asleep to! Obviously, this kicked my ass all the way around the house, and I took it out repeatedly until I went and finally bought my own copy in the summer of 2003. I actually don't know why I dug the album so much, but I did; I'd simply never heard anything like it before, and I really haven't heard anything exactly like it since. This album is pretty much an epochal fuck-off document - probably just as much as "Metal Machine Music" was, except this album had brilliant songs and came out in 1968 besides. "Here She Comes Now" is gorgeous and almost too short, "Lady Godiva's Operation" scrambles the line between outright perverse filth and campy horror story, and the humor and instrumental sound of "The Gift" is as black as the album cover (this one is probably the one I skip the most, but I usually just pan right and turn into an instrumental). I am biased towards this album, because I give it a nine or ten, but I love it. It's basically the Velvets at their ugliest - and funniest.

Third - Lou Reed was a dedicated user of...speed, not heroin. Funny - you'd think Keith Richards and Lou Reed were using each other's drugs based on the energy levels of their respective records.

Fourth - The facetious part of my idiotic commentary on the album actually does feature one fact: the engineer, Gary Kellgren, did actually hate the band, and I have a secret (and completely unfounded) suspicion that he went out of his way to make it sound like armadillo dung. Why? Because Kellgren was also the guy who engineered the Mothers of Invention album "We're Only In It For The Money," and he's the creepy whispering guy who pops up throughout: you can hear him saying that the Velvets are "even more of a shitty band than Frank Zappa's band..." or something like that.

Fifth - I have no other points to make.

Ben
This album starts off with the classic title track, and then just goes completely downhill. Lou Reed is capable of doing some excellent music but I can't ignore that occasionally he does put out garbage like this. Awful production too. The only redeeming quality of this album aside from the title track is "Here She Comes Now". This gets a 2.

Add your thoughts?

The Velvet Underground - Verve 1969.
Rating = 7


How about if I just take a little nap and you finish the rest of these reviews? e5rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrroa8yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaaa

Hey, wait a minute! This album's actually pretty normal! It's still awfully mellow when it wants to be but, unlike the dreary debut, this stuff's kind of charmingly pretty! John Cale and his viola are gone, and one 'Doug Yule' is in the band now, adding his fairly pleasant voice to the proceedings every once in a while. "Candy Says," "Jesus," and "Pale Blue Eyes" are lovely songs, fairly reminiscent of the Mamas and the Papas, and "After Hours" features some adorable Beat Happening-esque vocals by drummer Maureen Tucker. Plus, great upbeat rockers like "What Goes On" and "That's The Story Of My Life" present the band as, well, a BAND, instead of an artsy Warhol drug experiment! A couple of songs don't really register, and the indecipherable "Murder Mystery," aside from the beautiful piano coda, is a lengthy "psychedelic" waste of tape, but I must admit that I really don't mind this one at all. Good show, normal band!

Reader Comments

corpsebag@hotmail.com
Maybe not as powerful as White Light / White Heat but still a freggin awesome lp. "Jesus" is one catchy tune.

Weigelda@aol.com (Dave Weigel)
"Freggin"? You dumb bastard.

This is my favorite Velvet Underground record, and the only one I listen to all the way through. What's it got? Great, moody melodies, and their best "psychedelic" tune ever in "The Murder Mystery". Not a "great" record, but a really enjoyable one. 7/10

kburt@seascape.com (Kent Burt)
Yes, this is a pretty album - but not in a The Mamas & The Papas kind of way, my friend... "Candy Says" is about Candy Darling, a drag queen from Warhol's Factory scene... And "Pale Blue Eyes" is one of the saddest, most achingly beautiful relationship songs ever written - it's certainly no "Air That I Breathe" pap. Admittedly, "The Murder Mystery" is a bit of a failed experiment, but few bands have ever recorded a record as fragile and beautiful as this.

bougopgs@eckerd.edu (Gregory S. Bougopoulos)
This album (more evident in the "closet mix") gave us a lo-fi sound. Without John Cale, the Velvets lost their balls for noisy music, but Lou showed us his songwriting power. A 10.

mortlock@ihug.co.nz (Alex Mortlock)
You complete wanker how dare you question the greatness of this album. I agreed with most of the stuff you say about other great artists, but I hope you realise alot of them would sound vastly different or maybe not have formed at all had this album not been released.

cjkdesig@flash.net
How's this for a change: no feedback, drugs or viola scraping! "Candy Says" is one beautiful song; probably among my top five VU tracks. "Pale Blue Eyes" ... why the hell wasn't this a hit? It should have been. Jesus! "Jesus" is really catchy, it even makes you overlook the fact it's three lines repeated over and over again. "Murder Mystery" shoulda been left off, but "After Hours" gets to me ... those lyrics are so depressing! But a great (if downbeat) way to end what is my second favorite VU album.

bgreenstein@nctimes.net (Ben Greenstein)
You're right - this is pretty normal! Except for the miserable failure "The Murder Mystery," most of these are catchy, straightforward pop tunes. The best of these are "What Goes On," which is a killer rocker, the ballads "Candy Says" and "Pale Blue Eyes," and the absolutely adorable "After Hours" - one of the band'd best ever. I've never liked "Beginning To See The Light" as much as most, and I find "Some Kinda Love" to be kinda boring, so I'd probably give it an eight. Just like every other VU album!

InMyEyes82@aol.com
Whereas the first two albums gave birth to the most aesthetically interesting bands of the past two decades (Sonic Youth, the Fall, Public Enemy, the Ramones, Television), this dandy little 'un unfortunately presaged R.E.M., the Counting Crows and the Feelies. Not that those groups are bad by definition, it's just that they don't really take any chances lyrically or musically. That's not the case here, though; almost every song registers (excluding "The Murder Mystery", lame-ass experimentation as mood music that bores my ass to hell), and Lou doesn't sound nearly as chauvenistic, pretentious and unlistenable as his solo career would in a scant few years. 10/10

mstreet@asiaonline.net (Malcolm Street)
First Nico went, then Cale.

And the result ain't half bad, except to me it sounds more like a Lou Reed solo album than the first two. Agree that "New York Murder Mystery" is half-assed, but the rest I like.

But that's the problem for me; this album's too laid back and, well, nice to be a real Velvet's album. That said "Lady be Good", with Cale back on organ, and "I'm Beginning to see the Light" are two of their greatest tracks.

A very good album, but not a great Velvet Underground album, if you see what I mean.

CanryLITE@aol.com
Do you have any idea how stupid you sound? Boring? Unlistenable? You even compared The VU to twee little hippie fuck around bands like the Mamas and THe Papas? All important rock and roll today owes as much to the Velvets as the Beatles. If not just for innovation. The VU started in 64-65 and were writing songs like Heroin and Im Waiting For My Man. Which were honest emotional songs that carry much more weight than the pychadelic jerk off rockers Pink Floyd. You cannot write off the VU as pretenous art rock. Lou Reed was obsessed with rock and roll (see: "Rock and Roll"). The band existed before their Warhol connection. The Velvet Underground also had the sense to evolve. After Cale left the band, Lou turned to a softer musical style that suited his songwriting as well as the previous more Heroin and speed adled style. All the punk you hold so dear comes from this band. Iggy Pop, whom you claim to love, wanted to be The VU. Jonathan Richman was completley fucking obsessed with them. The Mc5, Television, Richard Hell, The New York Dolls, all the early punk bands wanted what the VU had.

drazy@gatecity.com
Brilliant songwriting, some excellent rhythm guitar work (God bless you, Sterling, I hope there's a Fender and a nice Vox amp for you up there), and my favorite V.U. album. Free from Worhol, Cale, and Nico, this is as close as Lou ever let us get to him lyrically. The album's impact is enormous and your review doesn't go far enough. Zach 1-Mark 0. A perfect 10.

Jcjh20@aol.com
I dont like this one as much as the debut, but there are some excellent tunes on here, nonetheless. "Candy Says", "Pale Blue Eyes", "Jesus" are all slow, soothing, melodic songs that i love and "What Goes On", "Beginning To See The Light", and "Thats The Story Of My Life" are actually normal, catchy, bluesy rockers. "Murder Mystery" isnt that bad, but its overlong of course. Also, "After Hours" is so cute and happy, you tend to forget how sad the lyrics are. I give it an 8.

aostevenson@earthlink.net (Alex Stevenson)
A masterpiece. While Zeppelin and Hendrix (they were great too!) were turning their blues amplifiers to 11, Lou Reed turned the knob the other way. Forget the artsy fartsy crap, this is perfect songwriting and singing. Beautiful.

esweenor@charter.net (Eric Sweenor)
A very tired, blurry sounding album...

One thing that grabs you about this one is the sheer conventional nature of it in comparison to the last two fiestas of noise. "Candy Says", gorgeous - and Doug Yule's cluelessly naive lead vocals fit it perfectly. "I'm Set Free" may be Lou Reed's best song - "...to find another illusion", it sounds hokey now, but damn, it still works! I don't really like "Pale Blue Eyes" anymore - it goes on too long and there isn't much going on except for the lyrics.

I can't decide whether this or the first LP is the better. Regardless, 9/10.

NMcpherson@fac.unc.edu (Earl McPherson)
You know, on their Green Tour REM used to close the show with "After Hours" [at least they did when we saw them]. Not a bad album but I've got the paper cover from the jewel box stuck to the CD and I don't know what to use to get it off. I must've peed on the thing when I was asleep or drunk.- An eight.

bylcote555@yahoo.com
The Murder Mystery is awesome! You guys just haven't figured out whodunnit! Try playing with the balance, there are two different things going on in each speaker, and the rhythm of the words in those two tracks interplay beautifly.The Velvets best album ever, the only one I enjoy all the way through.

bdoleac@wesleyan.edu
Sure they're overrated, but their importance really isn't - and if the debut record takes a fucking year to set in, so be it. But you can groove to album number three from the git-go, which record also gives you an inkling as to where the fuck Yo La Tengo came from. Not that side 2's exactly perfect, but anyone who argues against the batch of tunes on side 1 is on my shit list, no question - neophytes should start here. Not only does "The Velvet Underground" give you the impression that they really were seminal, but it also suggest they really were great and they really did redefine what a rock band could be - nobody else sounded anything like this, and how else could Yo La Tengo, Pavement ('specially Malkmus & co's first 3 ep's, collected on the brilliant "Westing" as you are aware), Joy Division, Wire, Swell Maps, Sebadoh, even R.E. fucking M. even exist? I've never liked the Velvets as much as a lot of critics seem to, but no way would I want to live my life without this record and "Loaded", fucking milestones both no matter how much hyperbole they've generated. Oh, and by the way, the "Fully Loaded" edition of the latter album fucking rocks - if you like "Slanted and Enchanted - Luxe and Reduxe" by all means get it. The self titled 1969 record and "Loaded"? 9 out of 10 both - easy. Not that the debut ain't terrific as well, though it may be considerably less user-friendly.

browningub40@peoplepc.com
I'd say, this album deserves a ten, in my opinion, this is the best record they ever made. Maybe not though, they're all pretty consistent I have to admit.My only complaint is that doug yule sings on this too often. And although I don't mind his voice too much I would rather hear Lou sing. But c'mon, a seven out of ten, that's way too low. Then again that's just my opinion.

Ben
We're on the same page on this one. This gets a 7.5 from me. I love the softer, mellow sound here. Very pleasant album. Only things that kill it are the boring "Jesus" and the unbearable "Murder Mystery". Great melodies are abundant. Although its overlong, "Pale Blue Eyes"" is the best song. "Candy Says" and "What Goes on?" are great too. " After Hours" and " That's the Story of My Life" are charming ear candy. Big improvement over the last one.

Add your thoughts?

V.U. - PolyGram 1984.
Rating = 5


A bunch of previously unreleased stuff. Some of it's awesome (Lou's rockin' "I Can't Stand It" and the Maureen-sung "I'm Sticking With You" open and close the record on really great notes), but a good deal of these tracks are very clearly outtakes, like Lou's silly Association-esque pop rocker "She's My Best Friend," and the dopey "Temptation Inside Your Heart," which rivals only The Monkees' "Gonna Buy Me A Dog" for the title of Least Funny Novelty Track Since The Dawn Of Man. If you're a fan, definitely pick it up, 'cause there are some essential tracks on here ("Stephanie Says" is as catchy as anything on that Velvet Underground album), but don't expect the "quality" you've come to associate with this "groundbreaking," "legendary," and "really interesting" rock and roll band.
Reader Comments

corpsebag@hotmail.com
Yeah not that great.

kburt@seascape.com (Kent Burt)
Disagreeing again - this album is fucking essential! "I Can't Stand It" and "Foggy Notion" are perfect prototypes of Unrest and Wedding Present guitar pop. This record also contains many songs that were later recorded by Lou Reed on his solo albums - and these versions are far superior (Satellite Of Love, Andy's Chest, She's My Best Friend, etc.). If you have the Peel Slowly And See boxed set, you're only missing two of these tracks, but if you needed the boxed set, you'll probably need those as well. 8)

frankfurter@home.com (Andrew Royal)
this is a strange album. i love the velvet underground, but all the same i just don't understand this. the drums on 'i can't stand it' sound downright cheesy (1982-esque) if you ask me. what this album reminds me of, almost, though, is lou reed's second solo album, transformer. i'm a huge fan of these reviews, i think it's the second best rock criticism ever (first being lester bangs), and i've always wondered if you like lou reed's solo work. i love it. transformer and berlin especially, but i think everybody should love transformer. you've said before on your site that the best rock 'n' roll is that which borrows from music that existed before it. well, transformer (not all glam, though) borrows like that from show tunes. but, lou reed's piss and shit new york punk rock primitive ass hole noise monger attitude takes all the bad shit out of show tunes. so you get phenomenal rock that everyone cool should enjoy. and his voice is electric. it just hits your heart (and i don't mean ann and nancy wilson) like a shockwave. tomorrow at my highschool, a new girl is coming. she loves punk. like your kind of punk. she's real cool. we have some common ground cause i love punk like the clash and the ramones and the pistols but i'm gonna get her to like transformer. i think it'll work. alright. whew. i gotta go listen to abba and eat haggis. haggis?

Ben
I'm gonna have to disagree. I'd say more of an 8. I really don't like "I'm Sticking with You" and there's maybe two or three not so great songs here, but the good stuff here (and there's a lot of it) is pretty fuckin great. I wasn't surprised when I found out that "I Can't Stand it" was originally a VU song, but I was surprised that it was even better as a VU song. "Andy's Chest" also sounds better here than on "Transformer". "Lisa" and "Stephanie Says" sound great too. Lets see... "Ocean" sounds the same as it does on Lou's first (and best) album, but it's still good and "Froggy Notions" great but could lose a minute or two.

Add your thoughts?

Live 1969 - Phonogram 1974.
Rating = 6


What with a woman's butt spread lasciviously all over the cover and a title like Live 69, it was quite natural that I would assume this to be a double-album recording of a young couple engaged in the squishy, slurpy, stinky act of my favorite lovemaking position (either that or 70, where the woman bends over at the waist and the guy curls up in a ball), so imagine my lack of erection when it was just the same old batch of boringass VU songs performed in a concert shitting. I'll say this - "Femme Fatale" is oodles better sung by Lou than it was by Nico, "What Goes On" has so much energy you'd think they weren't all on heroin, and a few others are passable girassible. Howeber, the band simply had too many bland, draggy songs (Lou got MUCH better when he went solo) and "Ocean" is so long, I lived my whole life, died of old age and was reincarnated as a cheeseburger by the time the record side was over. You're just lucky I'm a cheeseburger with some guy's finger in it - otherwise there'd be no more reviews for you, America!

(and the outside, lesser world)

Reader Comments

Tknumber14@aol.com
You're completely missing the point on this one! The Velvet Underground do what a lesser band could not; provide an alternative version able to compete with their studio renditions. Songs are long, drawn out and focuss on a different aspect of the music. The 8 minute "White Light/White Heat" is more subdued than the impossibly hectic studio version bringing to light exactly what makes the song so great. Hearing the Velvet Underground as a live band is like being let in on a secret. Some of these songs sound like the band was playing to less than ten people and that's depressing!

That and the fact that Reed sounds like he actually cares on this one, unlike the mean-tempered, non-encore-giving grouch of today. I mean, all those drugs probably eventually fucked him up so much he didn't want to give any more than he had to (he was all drain) but I'm still really fucking dirty about how when he came to Sydney last, he refused to play an encore. How dare he. So, hear him on this live album instead. It's great.

Might I add: it comes in two volumes on seperate discs. Call me old fashioned, but shouldn't they be combined by now? Oh well, buy them.

Ben
This gets a solid 9 from me. Great song quality and another excellent performance despite the on inclusion of the abysmal "Heroin" and a disappointing version of "Ocean". Guess I can't really choose what my favorite song here is, but it is interesting to see that "Lisa Says" and "Ocean" date back to the VU days of Lou's career.

Add your thoughts?

Another View - PolyGram 1986.
Rating = 5


Even more outtakes. Most of these are instrumental jams, though, so keep that in mind. "Rock And Roll" is a really cool song, and the viola-driven pop rocker "Hey Mr. Rain" is one of the few Velvets songs that don't make me wanna rip the album off the turntable and stomp on it for an hour and a half (although not even I have any desire to hear TWO different versions of it on the same cassette tape), but most of this record is for collectors only.

GARBAGE collectors, that is!

Reader Comments

Ben
I'm gonna have to agree (for the most part). I'm sure there was better unreleased VU in the vaults better than that "Coney Island Baby" song (what's up with those vocals?) and that version of "Rock and Roll" sounds the same as it does on "Loaded". Other complaints aside, the instrumentals are pretty cool and I love those versions of "Hey Mr. Rain". I'll take that song over just about anything from "White Light/White Heat".

Add your thoughts?

Loaded - Cotillion 1970.
Rating = 7


Similar to The Velvet Underground and just as listenable. I tell ya - I doubt that this band will ever be one of my favorites, but I must admit that there's something awfully likable about this later-period stuff. This album, in fact, isn't arty AT ALL!!! It just sounds like a band trying to make a record full of songs - like The Beatles or The Stones, but without the same calibre of songwriting. Now, don't get all pissy - I know that VU have their legions and legions of fans, but gimme a band that actually writes innovative melodies any day of the week. That said, I adore "Who Loves The Sun" (sounds like The Turtles!!!), the classic hit single "Rock And Roll," and the (can't remember how it goes) song "I Found A Reason," and most of the others aren't too far behind. I can't stand "Head Held High" or "Cowboy Bill," though, and "Oh! Sweet Nuthin'" goes on too damn long. Those were fine, fine descriptions of the unforgettable songs on this highly describable album.

If you'd just like to hear one Velvet Underground album, this wouldn't be a bad choice; unlike their more famous records, it at least won't make you wanna slip a mickey into their heroin. Weak vocals sure, but we can't all be Les Claypool.

Reader Comments

Weigelda@aol.com (Dave Weigel)
I like this one, too. "Sweet Jane" is a classic, and deservedly so. It's my favorite Velvets song. (By the way, if you think I'm a poseur for liking their most famous song, I have one question--how can a Velvet Underground fan call someone a "poseur"?) "Rock and Roll" is supposed to be a classic, but I would disagree. It sounds like something Keith Richards would write after a lobotomy. All the songs fall into the category of "pretty good", but it's nothing to get excited about. Mark said it perfectly--"..a band trying to make...songs like the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, but without the same caliber of songwriting". The Velvet Underground was a mediocre, unpopular band, who by all rights should have been forgotten 25 years ago. But noooooo, critics and Sonic Youth have to keep insisting that they were a great band. And too many people fall for it. 6/10

bougopgs@eckerd.edu (Gregory S. Bougopoulos)
Lou shows us that he can make a rock 'n' roll album like anyone else, and he makes a great one. "Rock and Roll", "Sweet Jane" and "New Age" stand out most. A 9.

cjkdesig@flash.net
Flawed, but still kick-ass. "Who Loves the Sun" is one of my all-time faves; man, those are some bitter lyrics. "Sweet Jane" is of course a classic and my all-time favorite VU song. "New Age" and "I Found A Reson" round out the quartet of perfect tracks on Loaded; the others are a mixed lot. "Rock and Roll" has a nice, spacey guitar solo, but is pretty overrated, "Cool It Down" and "Train Round the Bend" have some good parts, but overall aren't great, "Head Held High" is pure joy, but kinda weak when compared to some of the other songs, "Lonesome Cowboy Bill" just plain sucks and "Oh! Sweet Nothing" is a poor man's "Hey Jude."

Far be it from me to tell Lou Reed how to put together an album, but "Cowboy" and "Sweet Nothing" should have been replaced by "Ride Into the Sun" and "Ocean," both on Rhino's Loaded: Fully Loaded Edition. I also would preferred the alternate mix of "Head Held High" and a very Bob Dylan-like version of "I Found A Reason," also on Fully Loaded. Still, a great way to end a stunning studio career. Very much worth your listening time.

bgreenstein@nctimes.net (Ben Greenstein)
The first side is absolutely incredible. The songs are all great, straightforward pop music, especially "Sweet Jane" (the "full length" version in the box kicks!), the charmingly beautiful "New Age," and the groovy, silly "Cool It Down." As for "Who Loves The Sun" - I can think of a whole mess of songs that are at least twice as bitter, but I still think it's a fine melody, even with those stupid harmonies. And "Rock And Roll"? Wow!

But side two? Not one song I like, especially not those painfully obnoxious first two songs. (One note - I actually listen mainly to CDs, but listen to them as if they were divided like the original vinyl versions. Call me weird.) "Oh! Sweet Nothin'" is decent, but that's about it. And it does go on for way too long - like "Hey Jude."

So, as a Velvet Underground album, I'd have to give it another eight, because those first five are amazing. And "I Found A Raisin" is pretty cool, too.

Hey, are any of you aware that Lou Reed's Berlin album is a perfect ten and one of the best albums ever made? I'll bet you weren't! Check it out!

murraywest@xtra.co.nz
I knew it! I knew Loaded would get a comparetively favourable review on a decidedly anti-VU site. For the record, Loaded is among the most limp-wristed, bland and frankly embarassing albums ever recorded with the sole aim of getting some airplay - and thats really saying something! With the obvious exceptions of Sweet Jane and Rock n'Roll (and out-takes such as Ride Into The Sun and the original version of Satellite of Love, both to be found on the VU boxset)this is VU and Lou Reed at their/his very worst. Theres a reason this was thier last album together, guys.

mstreet@asiaonline.net (Malcolm Street)
Sorry, I love the Velvets but I don't like this one. While it has some individual good tracks (Sweet Jane, Rock n Roll, Head Held High, New Age) the spectacle of the Velvets trying to make a commercial album is rather underwhelming; "insincere" is one description I've heard and agree with. And for a band who made their reputation by saying "Fuck you" to just about every musical and lyrical convention it's a sad end. Really miss Mo Tucker's drumming as well. But I can understand why people who *don't* like the Velvet Underground like this.

gmack@btinternet.com
Allong with This Nation's Saving Grace by The Fall & Led Zep's Physical Graffiti it's one of my favourite guitar albums ever

oliver5200@hotmail.com (Adam Bruneau)
God, this album is crap. And I don't mean it in a "I-don't-like-Velvet-Underground-therefor-this-sucks" way. I have the first 3 albums. I love them to death. They're inventive, they're creative, they're groundbreaking, and they're very catchy. This one is none of the above. I'm well-aware of the fact that it was their "selling out" record or whathaveyou, but there's a good reason why it never went anywhere on the charts, because aside from "Sweet Jane" and "Who Loves the Sun" every song here (yes, I'm talking to you "Rock and roll"!) is boring and goes no where, even for radio crap. It's not even catchy! Just a bunch of hacked-out 1-4-5 numbers, all strung together in a faceless march with the 'big hit singles' lining the first few tracks of the album. It's almost as if the inspiration behind the first few albums went completely out the window, and it's very sad....

stephen.stroud1@btinternet.com
WrongWrongWrong
WrongWrongWrong
WrongWrongWrong
WrongWrongWrong
WrongWrongWrong
WrongWrongWrong
WrongWrongWrong
WrongWrongWrong
WrongWrongWrong
WrongWrongWrong.....Please understand this.....YOU ARE WRONG.

esweenor@charter.net (Eric Sweenor)
Ever notice how "Baba O'Riley"'s riff sounds like a louder, faster "Sweet Jane"...? "Sweet Jane" is part of the DNA of rock music, I think, purely elemental riff, catchy as hell, should've been a hit single, and so easily covered by a garage band and reinterpreted (viz Rock 'n' Roll Animal).

As for the rest of the album...I don't know. "New Age" and "Oh! Sweet Nuthin'", though kinda long, are really lovely songs, and "Who Loves the Sun", though it will make you kill if you're in the wrong mood, is catchy like the Sesame Street theme...it's a kid's song, for Chrissake! From the guys who did "Heroin" and "Venus In Furs"! That gets points for sheer subversiveness.

It's still difficult to decide. A few tracks here ("Lonesome Cowboy Bill") are garbage. But it's resonant, simple, catchy, and grungy. Your life could be saved by rock and roll...or not, but it's worth a shot, eh? 8/10

irontyrant@earthlink.net (Michael Grefski)
Like many a college student I was duped by the supercool elite into believing the Velvet Underground was the best band ever. I actually listened to them pretty non-stop for about a year until I figured out that a lot of their stuff (while experimental and daring and the first of it's kind) stunk. Actually stuff by Wire, Pere Ubu, Die Kreuzen, Can, Amon Duul II, Guru Guru, Flipper, and Voi Vod is a lot more daring than anything VU came out with and some of those acts were contemporaries of Lou Reed's Flying Circus. But LOADED is actually OK. I think it's because it's the first album the VU made as themselves. Not the band trying to please Andy Warhol, not the band trying to impress Greenwich Village art snobs, just themselves. Thus after the poppy Monkess style silliness of "Who Loves The Sun," the rest is pretty super cool. I like the whole album, but the best cut is absolutley without a doubt "Oh Sweet Nuthin'." It's more sublime and affecting than the entire previous "quiet" VU album put together. OK, I'll shut up now and listen to some Ozric Tentacles who are also better than VU.

newone88859@hotmail.com
Well, there's one thing that you can say about VU fans, and that's that they have a great sense of humor! But honestly, I like this album pretty well. They certainly aren't my favorite band, but sometimes they really hit the spot like no other. It seems like a lot of bands today are just trying to put a lot of super complex parts together and make this difficult beast, and that's all well and good, but sometimes you just want to listen to songs. And when i wanna listen to songs, I dig out someting by the VU or Fugazi or the Ramones or somebody. I don't know. This is going nowhere. Loaded=great!, self-titled=great!, white light, white heat=great!, nico=good, sometimes great.

Ben
This is the VU at its peak. "Who Loves the Sun?" is my favorite here. Too bad Lou Reed left the band before this came out. I think they would have been great if they continued in this direction. Definitely my favorite studio VU album, I'll give it a 9.

Add your thoughts?

Live At Max's Kansas City - Cotillion 1972.
Rating = 5


I read somewhere that this was the last show that Lou Reed ever played with the band, but I can't verify that one way or the other. Might as well have been, though. The pretty songs are still pretty, but the recording sounds terrible, and the star of the show is some guy standing near the recorder (Jim Carroll?) who keeps asking for Tylenol or Tuinol or something. Maureen Tucker was on maternity leave, I think, so some other Yule is sittin' in on traps. One thing about this record - with all that Yule, it's awfully Christmasy!

Let me close these reviews by just pointing out that lots of people really like the Velvet Underground, and lots of bands I really like (ex. REM, Sonic Youth, Throbbing Gristle) point to them as influences. Hell, I saw The Remains (Dee Dee, CJ, and Marky Ramone plus Dee Dee's wife) play a few weeks ago, and even THEY did a VU cover!!!! So clearly they were an important part of American popular music. Still - they were only slightly above average if you ask me. Good morning!

Reader Comments

break7@moran.com (Tim Eimiller)
Hiya, Mark. I've been reading through your Velvet Underground reviews and I have incredulously discovered that you rank them with concessions to OTHER critics' opinions of them! You have never done this before! You were quick to say which Who albums you liked and which ones you didn't and ranked them accordingly; what makes the V.U. so special? If you hate their first record, you hate it, give it a rating that SAYS you hate it. Do professional critics rate albums according to what others in their profession dictate? Don't be such a pushover for the V.U. hype, sheesh.

I also want to compliment you on how entertaining your reviews are. You have an engaging style of critique, and no review is ever boring. But six stars for Quadrophenia? Gasp! That's my favorite record! And you actually LIKE Presence and In Through The Out Door? I just can't get over that... But I've already beaten this one to death.

corpsebag@hotmail.com
This is the equivilant to Loco Live by the Ramones. Not musicwise just cuz this is one great bootleg. If only they would have stopped trying to rock out and do "Heroin" or a "Sister Ray". Maybe if Moe Tucker was on drums instead of John Cale this could have been more groove.

dbwilson@earthlink.net
I was so happy to read these reviews; I was beginning to think I was the only one who hated this band. I bet you all the 80's-90's bands who are always talking about how much they love the Velvets never really listen to them. It cracks me up when people say Reed's Metal Machine Music is unlistenably boring - hell, almost all the band's stuff is unlistenably boring, outside of a few solid riffs like "Sweet Jane."

riffraff3@juno.com (Nolan C. Kordsmeier)
I find your lack of appreciation for the Velvet Underground is astounding. You seem to be a big fan of sonic youth, pavement and other alt rock bands, so i dont see how you can dismiss the velvets as being boring. They started it all. They emerged during the midst of 60s pop crap and exploded with a new and innovative sound. They are a large influence on alternative music and that is hard to miss. I guess you're one of those close-minded people who has to have music "rock" so they can dance to it. YOur review of this heroic band is trite. You should learn to appreciate them and not demean in the incompetent way you did. What a disappointment

VU1967@aol.com
For someone who states such a total hate for the velvet underground, you definately had lots of praise. As an enormous VU fan, I was quite disappointed to hear anyone say they hate them, but hey, your opinion is your opinion. Just one question though: If u hate them so much, why do u spend so much time listening to all their records?

alrey@worldnet.att.net (Alan Reynolds)
What's with all these assholes busting the Velvet Underground? No, they didn't change the world, no entertainers did (except maybe for Dylan, of course), but that's not their job. I just like to listen to them. Thirty years later. I bet thats all they were goin for.

asludwig@erols.com (Allen C. Ludwig)
Of all the rock n' roll acts in history, only The Beatles, Dylan, and the Stones can come close to the Velvets as influences. Your worthless opinion counts for nothing. Listen to the great artists of the last twenty-five years, and most will cite the VU among their heroes. It's not their fault that you just can't understand the revolution, you loser.

bv147@yfn.ysu.edu
You dig Madonna but act like listening to the VU is a chore? What the hell's wrong with you? The VU are too cool for words. I said it before but I'll say it again: It's the scandal of the Web...

hiseitz@win.bright.net (Blake G. Seitz)
I LOVE THE VELVET UNDERGROUND. HOW CAN YOU SAY THEY ARE BORING. THEY ARE THE BEST BAND IN THE WORLD BESIDES SONIC YOUTH. I COULD NEVER FALL ASLEEP LISTENING TO THEM. FUCK YOU, IT ROCKS. AND SO DOES PSHYCHOCANDY BY THE JAMC TO WHOEVER SAID IT. FUCK YOU.

granny.granny@worldnet.att.net (Elizabeth Litscher)
Dear blake,

not only is typing in all caps childish, uninteresting and unsightly, whne you try to make a point by saying that they are the second best band next to sonic youth, I say seek proffesional help. Yeah, VU are interesting at the same time pioneers, they lack a lot of mixing and one other thing ACTUAL MUSICAL TALENT.

p.s. all members of sonic youth take dicks up the ass

bgreenstein@nctimes.net (Ben Greenstein)
Let me get this straight - you claim to hate the Velvet Underground, yet you own all of their albums. It's possible that you're just less financially challenged than I, but this makes little sense me. Oh, well.

You also claim to hate slow, mopey music, but you like the Cure, early REM, and the last two songs on The Cars. I agree, some Velvet stuff is boring, but it's more engaging than some Pink FLoyd.

BugAvenger@aol.com
I like the Velvet Underground. I also like the Talking Heads.

deathsquadassassin@yahoo.com (The Unblinking Eye)
Hey Mark-- You are always talking about how much you hate the Velvet Underground, but their four studio albums received the following grades: 7, 6, 7, 7. Pretty good (if not great) marks for what is supposedly the most boring, pretentious band in rock 'n' roll. What gives?

Browningzool1@aol.com
You have some issues with your velvet underground section.

Ben
A 5? I'll give this an 8 or 8.5. Sure the sound quality brings it down, but the playing is very tight here. Jim Carroll's dumb monologues between the songs are annoying too. Some of these songs ("I'm Waiting for the Man", Pale Blue Eyes") are better than the studio versions and it's nice to hear Lou sing on songs that Maureen and Nico normally would have sang.

Add your thoughts?

Squeeze - Polydor 1973
Rating = 3


FINALLY Lou "Asshole" Reed is out of the band and they can really sprout their wings and fly! Doug Yule, the only truly talented member the band ever had, has hired a much more talented group of professional songwriters and musicians to replace -- what were their names again? Sterling SHITTerson? Maureen SUCKer? Ha ha! No but seriously. How could Doug Yule lose when surrounding himself with the rock-solid drums of Deep Purple's Ian Paice, lead guitarist Walter Powers playing his hot country-blues licks and searing hard rock solos, and soft rock country-western vocalist Willie Alexander providing gritty Southern-styled gravy train good time singin' and playin'? Short answer: He couldn't. And finally the name "Velvet Underground" is synonymous with "quality," Squeeze demonstrating how great the Velvet Underground could have been all along if only they'd stuck to songs about "Dopey Joe," "Little Jack" and that "Mean Old Man."

Boasting all the excitement and mystique of The Doors' Other Voices and The New Improved Electric Prunes' Just Good Old Rock And Roll, Squeeze refashions NYC's favorite overrated mopey drug addict poseur outfit into a barrelling powerhouse of bouncy novelty country-rock songs. Through such timeless classics as the oompah polka "Louise," the "What The Kinks Would End Up Sounding Like In The Late '70s"-esque "Jack And Jane," and the Osmonds-style rockin' out glam rocker "Caroline," the NU-VU are intent on singing songs about every person they know -- and they've SUCCEEDED! Whether paying tribute to "Pinball Wizard" and "Sympathy For The Devil" in "Little Jack" or paying homage to "Martha My Dear" in "Crash," this white-hot slab of lightning in group form isn't afraid to mine its past to forge its present and make a clay bowl in which to pour its shining future.

As an interesting aside, "Friends" is actually a really good song! Maybe it was left on here by mistake?

Reader Comments

esweenor@charter.net (Eric Sweenor)
I've never heard this but Doug Yule's pleasant enough so maybe it's not gut-wrenchingly, soul-shreddingly terrible. I do, however, have a 4-cd live Japanese boxed set of all post-Lou Reed, "Yule's Too Cool for School" (that's as clever as I get) era VU. Problem is, there's so much static I can't hear whether or not it's any good. My guess is it's no real loss.

sonicdeath10@hotmail.com (Eric Benac)
where the hell did you find this album? i didn't even think it was released on cd. it can't be any worse than some of lou reed's solo stuff.

ideoteque108@yahoo.com (David Mansfield)
I have read your site for years now, and I have agreed with you for the most part. I was reading your reviews of the Velvet Underground and I am totally with you man. I felt like I have been going crazy lately because I felt like I was the only one who did not like them at all. I love the bands they influenced, but man I can't stand Lou Reed and the gang. S and M, Herion, ect, I am sorry it just doens't do it for me. I just wanted to say they are the most overrated band of all time, I think, and I am totally on your side with them sucking.

robert@biermandesign.com
What the fuck. Is this guy a joke? Grow up. Who are you anyway and by the way VU (because obviously no one can type out the velvet underground, because it’s just way too hard?) is like the most inspirational timeless shit I’ve ever heard. That is life. Just simply sitting somewhere completely into a song because you could’ve written it yourself? Common you can’t listen unless you can relate. He has courage, and at least he’s bold enough to change styles, put his sickest thoughts out into the world; and his thoughts aren’t even sick. All of you boring normal people, stop listening to Lou and switch over to like hip hop please because you are fake fucking people. He is hardcore. Has anybodies life been 100 times as interesting as Lou’s? he’s lived enough lives to make up for all of you. By the way try writing a song and see what comes out of you. It won’t be close to the power he exerts by talking one note. Or even looking at his face. I like everything he’s ever done and that is because you take all or nothing. And there is nothing I wouldn’t take.

kilgoretroutmaskreplica@hotmail.com
A great example of why we shouldn't always go by allmusic; Powers and Alexander don't appear anywhere on this album, Doug Yule and Ian Paice were the only musicians involved in this album. Actually I like Doug Yule a lot and this album, though inferior to Loaded, confirms what I suspected before hearing Squeeze: he probably was the main man behind Loaded's sound (even if not its songs. But are the compositions REALLY all that's cool about that album?)

As a sidenote, it's absolutely shameful that Yule wasn't inducted into the CROCK and roll hall of fame with the Cale, Reed, Morrison and Tucker. There's no justification for that.

Add your thoughts?


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