1001 Albums: The Velvet Underground & Nico

#91

Album_91_Original.jpg

Artist: The Velvet Underground

Album: The Velvet Underground & Nico

Year: 1967

Length: 48:51

Genre: Art Rock

“Teenage Mary said to Uncle Dave
I sold my soul, must be saved
Gonna take a walk down to Union Square
You never know who you’re gonna find there
You gotta run, run, run, run, run”

Let’s add this album to the long list of famous albums that I just don’t really get. I was never a fan of the Velvet Underground and in the past I have tried to listen to this album with big failure. Part of me dreaded having to listen to it but part of me was intrigued because I never really did. It was a bag of mixed emotions going into it and that bag remained the same once it was done. I still have very mixed emotions about this album and honestly don’t know what to think of it.

It’s not my thing, that’s for sure. It’s not that I don’t like Art Rock or anything with experimentation, although I’m not a fan with some notable exceptions. There’s no denying these guys have talent and love to experiment in interesting ways. And I definitely will not deny the influence they’ve had on bands and how much skill went into creating this album. But it’s really an acquired taste, a difficult to swallow album that really isn’t for everyone. I get why some people love this album but I also get why people could be turned off by it. I’m unfortunately in the latter of this group, recognizing the achievement of the album but just not being into it.

One of my friend’s dared me to do a track by track review. which I thought was a terrible idea since I don’t like this album, but hey he dared me and that’s a challenge so why not. Let’s see a track by track review from the perspective of someone who isn’t a fan.

Sunday Morning:

Already a poor start for me. This feels beyond cheesy to me and if this is setting the mood for the rest of the album then we’re off to a bad start. Thankfully it’s apart stylistically and the rest of the album never returns to this cheese-fest. Please never let me endure this song again.

I’m Waiting For The Man:

Now this is what I’m talking about. Almost a proto-punk feel to it, hard guitars and a big beat. I was loving this song… until it just never ended. What the hell was going on… just the same repetitive thing over and over and over for almost 5 minutes. As much as I liked it, it just became dull after 2 minutes as I realised it just wasn’t gonna change at all.

Femme Fatale:

For those who have read my Nico review already know how I feel about this song. This would have been way better if I didn’t have to listen to Nico’s stupid voice. I hate her singing, sounds like she has a muffin stuffed in the back of her throat. I can see why the band and Andy Warhol like her being a bunch of underground pretentious arteeests, but honestly I just can’t stand it. Good song, better off with a different singer.

Venus in Furs:

Ugh. I guess this song is good, if you like high-pitched wailing sounds similar to bagpipes blaring in your ear. Big points for the whole art rock, experimental aspect, lose points because I found this obnoxious to my ears. Couldn’t wait for it to end and of course it was over 5 minutes long. Lucky me.

Run Run Run:

Solid tune. Really liked this one, probably my favourite. Nothing more to say, just really enjoyed it.

All Tomorrow’s Parties:

Snooze… another Nico song and of course this one is 6 minutes long. I was honestly just bored with this one and couldn’t grasp it at all. Maybe I just wanted to be over with this album by now but this song just didn’t do it for me. It’s one of my friend’s favourites… good for him I guess, maybe he’ll explain it to me one day.

Heroin:

Here is a great example when experimental music works very well. Dark subject matter mixed in with the instrumentation as a recreation of an experience. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and really liked what they set out to do. Thumbs up from me.

There She Goes Again:

Enjoyable. Sounds like they’re doing their best at a Bob Dylan impression, as tons of bands were doing at the time. Mostly just in the intonations of the vocals. Good stuff.

I’ll Be Your Mirror:

I honestly don’t remember this one and it seems to be the shortest of the album, so maybe that’s why. Need a quick re-listen to jog my memory. Give me a second…

Just as I suspected… another Nico song. I must have blocked it out of my memory and thanked god it was so short. Oh well, next.

The Black Angel’s Death Song:

My friend wanted me to write a whole paragraph on this one. I really didn’t want to seeing as I am obviously not the right person to write a retrospective on this album or delve deep and go into analysis since I’m not a an at all. But a challenge is a challenge so I figure I can fill up space with nonsense just so I can fill up a paragraph’s worth of words. Another bag-pipe sounding song, but not nearly as annoying as the other one, here it’s way more enjoyable and pleasant. I wish I could break this one down more than currently am (which is barely anything to begin with so whatever) but who knows, I’ll let the fans break this one down and I’ll just move my way through, enjoying the experience and broadening my horizons in music knowledge. Is this enough words for a paragraph? I guess so, he better be happy.

European Son:

Longest song on the album but wholly deserving of it’s length. I was really quick to save this one to my playlist before it took a sudden turn into weird territory. The beginning is a little misleading for what’s to come in the rest of the song. Loved it then got caught off guard and then got lost in the wild experimentation that was this song. It was a brain-melting experience but I’ll give it to them it was one that was worth sitting through this entire album. Great ending to an otherwise meh experience.

 

So there you have it, my brief and underwhelming track by track review of this album. Funnily enough, when this album first came out it bombed completely being deemed a financial and critical failure, selling barely any copies and just not getting the reviews it probably, maybe deserved. It’s only until years later when musicians of those times started talking about this album and the part it played in influencing them that it started to get the recognition it deserved. So who knows, maybe history will repeat itself and years from now I’ll finally rediscover it as the masterpiece it is. Or maybe I’ll stay stuck in the 60s mindset and be like… meh.

We will see.

Song of Choice: Run Run Run

-Bosco

Advertisements

1001 Albums: Chelsea Girl

#77

Album_77_Original.jpg

Artist: Nico

Album: Chelsea Girl

Year: 1967

Length: 45:04

Genre: Folk-Pop/Chamber-Folk

“Here they come now
See them run now
Here they come now
Chelsea Girls”

It’s rare that I stumble upon an album on this list that I didn’t like. Even The Beatles ones I found myself enjoying to a certain extent and as far as I can remember an album I don’t like is more an exception to the rule than something I’ll come to expect. Unfortunately this album is one of those exceptions. It’s not that I thought it was bad, it just didn’t do anything for me. Although I think it was pretty funny that it followed the other two relaxing albums and added to my attempts to relax (musically it remains calm but unlike the other two is a little more chilling and has that gloomy subtext that made it a little difficult to truly relax, but whatever).

Nico was known for her work with the Velvet Underground, a band I never really listened to and the little I tried to I just wasn’t into that much (this was awhile ago so maybe my feelings will have changed now to being more open-minded but if it’s anything like this one chances are slim). And there’s a good chance it’ll be like that because her Velvet Underground band mates join her as her backing band throughout the album. There’s no denying they are all very talented musicians who capture that mellow gloom (guess the word of the day) that underlies the entire album. And there’s no denying that Nico herself is one hell of a singer, although I’m not crazy about her particular voice especially when she sings deeper notes, she has a one-up on most singers today in that she actually sings with emotion. Though she does come across as that emo girl from your high school what she does well is she never crosses the line into full-on melo-drama and feels relatively genuine.

Ok, now what didn’t I like? Well, the production of this album is pretty awful. Apparently, Nico herself was extremely disappointed with it to the point it actually drove her to tears. She was so upset with the final product that she grew to hate her album. The producers were really tough on her and she wasn’t able to get the album she originally wanted. She asked for drums, they said no, she asked for this, they said no, they asked for that, they said no. Then behind her back they added fucking flutes and strings tot he whole mix, which is what made her cry. The fucking flutes. They sound awful, they add absolutely nothing to the music and they’re simply just terrible those fucking flutes. If it had stayed with the simple guitar arrangements I probably would have liked it way more than I did and the music itself would definitely have been more powerful, but nope instead we have to endure those cheesy string arrangements and stupid ass flutes.

Also, “It Was A Pleasure Then” was an incredibly difficult song to sit through as the instrumentation goes into a wild distortion that hurts the ears rather than gives you a musical experience. This song sticks out too much as musical experimentation within an album of chamber folk and could have probably done without. ┬áThat being said there are some good songs that blanket this one, the self-titled “Chelsea Girls”, which was named after an Andy Warhol film Nico acted in, and “I’ll Keep It With Mine”, originally a Bobby Dylan song he recorded but never released.

Apparently Nico’s work gets even darker as her career progressed (according to my friend Graham, because I would have no clue about this) and based on what I was told, it’s not surprising. Nico was apparently raised by Nazis, her dad having fought for the Germans in world war 2, and she was raised with fascist ideology that definitely stuck in her subconscious even if she disagreed with it. She was also a complete nutcase it seems. My friend told me a story about this one time she was at a restaurant with a few other people. Seeing how she wasn’t getting any attention, it seemed the best solution was to exclaim she didn’t like black people, smash a bottle and stab the black woman at their table in the eye with it. Andy Warhol had to drag her away, that’s right, the weirdo Andy Warhol had to drag her away for being too much. I don’t know if any of it is true, but if it is we’re dealing with one crazy psycho here.

There’s not much else I can really say about this album. I can definitely see people loving it and why they would love it but it didn’t do anything for me. But hey, we can’t like everything, right?…. RIGHT?!…. oh…

Song of Choice: Eulogy to Lenny Bruce

-Bosco