You, me, the music, and me.

Saturday, March 01, 2008


Verve 823 290-2 (1967)

Ah, the Summer of Love. You won't find any hint of it on the Velvet Underground's 1967 debut. Produced by legendary visual artist Andy Warhol, the album is a dark antithesis to the sounds of its time... no hippies, tie-dyed dancing bears, or Peppery horn sections to be found. What you get instead are nervous, clattering songs about scoring drugs, sado-masochism, and death, as well as some of the most poignant and beautiful ballads you'll ever hear (mostly sung by smoky-voiced chanteuse Nico, who would part ways with the group after this album).

With the aforementioned lyrical content, TVU&N could have been a total bummer, but what saves the album is the wit and humour of principal songwriter/vocalist Lou Reed, who would go on to lead the band after Warhol lost interest. There's a telling moment about two-thirds of the way into "Venus in Furs", a turgid ode to bondage and S&M; just after singing the line "Taste the whip, now plead for me", Reed lets slip a nervous laugh. It's moments like that (not to mention the way that he stretches the word "pleeeeead" to an almost ridiculous length) that give the impression that Reed and the group are in on the joke and not taking themselves too seriously.

With a range that encompassed the gentle "Sunday Morning" and the thrashing, pounding "European Son", the Velvets would inspire a thousand black-clad "alternative" bands, many of whom would sell quite a few more records than they did, and even a couple who came close to "getting the joke".


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