Tanner Babcock

The Velvet Underground

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Year Title Rating
1967 The Velvet Underground & Nico 9/10
1967 Nico - Chelsea Girl 6.5/10
1968 White Light/White Heat 8/10
1968 Nico - The Marble Index 7.5/10
1969 The Velvet Underground 7/10
1970 Loaded 4.5/10
1970 Nico - Desertshore 8/10
1970 John Cale - Vintage Violence 6.5/10
1971 Squeeze 4.5/10
1971 John Cale & Terry Riley - Church of Anthrax .../...
1972 Lou Reed - Transformer 7/10
1972 John Cale - The Academy in Peril .../...
1972 Lou Reed - Lou Reed 6.5/10
1973 Lou Reed - Berlin 7/10
1973 John Cale - Paris 1919 6.5/10
1974 Lou Reed - Sally Can't Dance .../...
1974 Nico - The End... 5/10
1974 John Cale - Fear 7/10
1974 Lou Reed - Rock n Roll Animal 5/10
1975 Lou Reed - Metal Machine Music 7.5/10
1975 Lou Reed - Coney Island Baby 5.5/10
1978 Lou Reed - Street Hassle .../...
1980 Lou Reed - Growing Up in Public .../...
1981 John Cale - Honi Soit .../...
1982 Lou Reed - The Blue Mask .../...
1984 John Cale - Comes Alive .../...
1985 John Cale - Artificial Intelligence .../...
1986 Lou Reed - Mistrial .../...
1989 Lou Reed - New York .../...
2011 Lou Reed & Metallica - Lulu 6.5/10

Review last updated: July 17, 2018

The Velvet Underground was probably the most historically important rock band of all time. Pioneers of objectively original, and almost criminally subversive sound, the original quintet has achieved things that few artists in any medium are able to achieve. Their lyrics, imagery, and aesthetics are very urban and post-modern, almost to the point of disillusionment and subsequent neurosis. This band invites the immature recorded music-listening world to feel and experience tales of lust, pain, addiction, death, separation, and sexual liberation, in a fashion that is provocative and developed but still accessible. The Velvet Underground had inspiration and lifelike authoritative tales of macabre pouring out of their nostrils. Their vehicle was rock music. The areas in the audience's collective (and unified) mind associated with metaphysical and psychosexual stimulation, are teased and violated.

It would not be boldly ignorant to state that The Velvet Underground & Nico was the first rock album that was an untouched, unadulterated, and properly inspired work of art. It could be said that the medium of rock music was not at all an art medium until The Velvet Underground. The most artistic ventures that pre-date this group would be Bob Dylan or The Mothers of Invention. Not only is The Velvet Underground an essential and fundamental entity in rock music, it is a profound and established persona in American history.

The Velvet Underground & Nico

I would like to remind anyone reading this how expensive it was to record and produce an album in 1967. Not only were there costs of studio time, music equipment, promotional material, and vinyl pressing, there was also a very rigorous and disciplined artistic process that paralleled this. There are a number of things that make The Velvet Underground & Nico a masterpiece, an important landmark of rock history. One is the colorful instrumentation. Produced by Andy Warhol himself, the quintet confidently boasted atmospheric qualities in a time period where atmospheric music was incomprehensible - electric violin, organ, bells, auxiliary percussion, and an offensively provocative style of guitar playing that spawns intense harsh noise. Also present on this recording are arhythmic drumming and vocal orchestrations.

Every song on this album is truly one of a kind. Each and every work of music here is an island unto itself - there are no other songs like it, not only on this album, but in the entire volume of recorded music. This is the kind of album that reminds you why rock music is exciting and dangerous. Heartwarming ballads like "I'll Be Your Mirror", "Sunday Morning", "Femme Fatale" touch your emotions and your senses with incredible beauty. In sharp contrast, the opioid overdoses and impulsive, psychotic rampages into hell induced by "Heroin", "The Black Angel's Death Song", "Venus in Furs", and "European Son", seem capable of removing your heart from your chest, decimating love, numbing emotion, and dissipating guilt and shame. If The Velvet Underground & Nico were a book, it would be banned in most libraries.

White Light/White Heat

White Light/White Heat is the triumphant and equally historically important sequel to the first album. There are many of the same ideas on this album, but also many new ones. While there remain many elements, musical and lyrical, from the group's first album, White Light is a parallel and entirely unique sensual and cerebral experience. In many ways this is a more traditional and accessible rock album, but it could also be perceived as even more offensive and provocative than the group's debut. This is the album where the literary, sonic, and emotional engines of Lou Reed and John Cale become even freer and less restrained, resulting in an even more earth-shattering and skull-crushing uninhibited rampage.

The two most notable songs on here are the literary and improvisational exercise "The Gift", an anti-romantic tale of pathetic naivete and hopeless cynicism, and "Sister Ray", a raga and free-form mantra that is capable of disorienting and abusing the listener - a slow, steady march into depraved chaos. "Sister Ray" might be the most important rock song of all time.