“The Velvet Underground” by The Velvet Underground - album review

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TJR says

The debut had been an elite-masterpiece, the follow-up a classic. John Cale’s role was absolutely central to both of those seminal releases. That he had been ousted from the group in September ’68 must have given cause for concern for those dedicated followers on the east coast. Not unsurprisingly, all ten of the songs on this third LP were penned by Lou Reed. The logic in his shake-up was perhaps summed up by his thoughts on the record: “I really didn’t think we should make another White Light/White Heat. I thought it would be a terrible mistake, and I really believed that. I thought we had to demonstrate the other side of us. Otherwise, we would become this one-dimensional thing, and that had to be avoided at all costs.” Elaborating on just what the “other side” entailed, Maureen Tucker (drummer) said: “I was pleased with the direction we were going and with the new calmness in the group, and thinking about a good future, hoping people would smarten up and some record company would take us on and do us justice.” New addition to the group, Doug Yule (bass, organ) said the album “was a lot of fun. The sessions were constructive and happy and creative, everybody was working together.”

The new boy is introduced straight away on the fragile ballad of self-doubt, “Candy Says”; all about Warholian transsexual Candy Darling on the surface, but with an easily reimagined universal truth. It’s a brave starter and warms slightly, without catching a fire. Springing to life immediately, “What Goes On” foretells the entire indie pop revolution, 14 years ahead of The Smiths. “Some Kinda Love” caresses bluesy licks with an awesome shades-on drawl from Lou, and a group that tease an irresistible loop ‘round and around for the whole 4 minutes. Frankly, they could play it twice as long and I’d still be getting my groove on with no wish to let up. The intimate “Pale Blue Eyes”, one of thee greatest songs of the year, was Lou at his most sensitive – its delicacy is every bit as affecting as any one of his more brutal extremes on the previous albums. It’s a love song with a killer punch line: “the fact that you are married only proves you're my best friend.”. As if reflecting on the fact that this extra-marital skulduggery is truly, truly a sin the next song, “Jesus”, continues the slowcore confessional: “Jesus, help me find my proper place.”

Flipping over, the stupendous indie-jangler “Beginning To See The Light” seems to continue this one-way conversation. By the time of “I’m Set Free” I’m starting to think, hang on, is this some sort of confession-box Rock Opera? If it is, it’s one of the best you’ll ever hear. The album’s one relative disappointment is served with “That’s The Story Of My Life”, a poppy little thing devoid of much in the way of charm. The album’s sole Cale-esque moment occurs second-last in with “The Murder Mystery”, a spectacular psychedelic success, echoing with “The Gift” in terms of sonic adventure and entertainment value. Two sets of story lyrics are delivered simultaneously by Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison, whilst sung choruses by Doug Yule and Maureen Tucker are intertwined and overlaid. Those prepared to listen intently over the course of the nine minute adventure will discover several murders and various alternative death methods including assassinations and downright gory dismemberments. Crazily, and typically Lou, this gory masterwork is followed by the goofy “After Hours”, the song which invented a 1,000 bands and is quite possibly responsible for the entire Sarah records output. It’s delightful, of course. Lou, who seemed intent on getting all group members on vocals for this LP, said that the song was “so innocent and pure” that he could not possibly sing it himself and coaxed a reluctant Moe into the super trouper. I’m glad that he did that – to love VU is to love Moe and the warm glow upon conclusion induces positivity; the general look-back feeling is that the album has pulled-off a great balancing act between art, angst and fun. On paper, this could have been a disaster, but Lou came good with his vision. Right here, it seems like The Velvet Underground, driven by Mr Reed, can do no wrong.

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [04:04] 7.8.png The Velvet Underground - Candy Says (Lou Reed) Moodcore
A2 [04:55] 9.9.png The Velvet Underground - What Goes On (Lou Reed) New Wave
A3 [04:03] 9.8.png The Velvet Underground - Some Kinda Love (Lou Reed) Blues Rock / Soul Rock
A4 [05:41] 10.0.png The Velvet Underground - Pale Blue Eyes (Lou Reed) Moodcore
A5 [03:24] 8.2.png The Velvet Underground - Jesus (Lou Reed) Moodcore
B1 [04:41] 9.7.png The Velvet Underground - Beginning To See The Light (Lou Reed) New Wave
B2 [04:08] 7.8.png The Velvet Underground - I’m Set Free (Lou Reed) Songwriter
B3 [01:59] 6.8.png The Velvet Underground - That’s The Story Of My Life (Lou Reed) Pop
B4 [08:55] 9.5.png The Velvet Underground - The Murder Mystery (Lou Reed) Psychedelia
B5 [02:07] 8.7.png The Velvet Underground - After Hours (Lou Reed) Songwriter

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