You've Never Heard?...

You've Never Heard 'The Velvet Underground and Nico'?

Note: This is a recurring series in which we ask our unimaginably young interns to review classic albums they've never heard before. Our current intern at All Songs Considered is Lindsay Sanchez.

The Velvet Underground and Nico
courtesy of artist

I finally have to admit my ignorance of The Velvet Underground. I know the band is iconic; I know it's a remarkably influential group; I’ve also heard The Velvet Underground is noisy.  That’s why I was taken by surprise when I heard the opening track to the band's first album.

“Sunday Morning” is a breezy introduction to their debut record, The Velvet Underground And Nico. When vocals become swallowed in echoed layers and Lou Reed sings, “I’ve got a feeling I don’t want to know,” maybe this is just the calm before the storm.

As I listen to track after track, I can feel a tinge of the city’s seedy side: the risqué narrative in “Venus in Furs,” the sound of air blasting through subway vents in “Black Angel’s Death Song,” and the nervous intense jonesing in “Run, Run, Run.”

I like the fuzzy foot-tapping pop tracks the best, like “There She Goes Again” and “I’m Waiting for My Man.” The vivid imagery in “Heroin” took me down the rabbit hole, and it’s frenetic pace kept me off balance during the trip. It could be the most explicit song about drug use I’ve ever heard.

The other tracks pulled me out of my comfort zone. They sounded sloppy and self-indulgent, especially John Cale’s grating viola drone.

The Velvet Underground and Nico tested my patience when the songs slowed to a barely beating drum pulse in “All Tomorrow’s Parties” and “Venus In Furs.” Then it made me tense when the guitars were assaulted in “European Son.”

I can understand how The Velvet Underground and Nico was completely groundbreaking at the time and it certainly sets a mood. But I prefer the artists who followed The Velvet Underground's lead such as Beck and The White Stripes.  Those groups give me a heavy dose of melody along with distortion and noise. I’m interested to see how The Velvet Underground evolved with their following releases, but after this review, I had enough to last me for a while.

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