The UnLive | Album Review: The Velvet Underground and Nico
Posted on April 10, 2010 by Greg
Mike from Chicago writes that his friend has called one of his favorite records a piece of crap. The UnCool plays musical referee and gives a second opinion. The album in question is the The Velvet Underground and Nico. Mike’s friend says it is boring, broke no new ground and called Lou Reed a “con artist” for duping the public into thinking they were great.
So: is it a classic record or an overrated piece of crap? I took another listen to it.
This album is listed by lots of rock critics as being one of the most influential of all time. But rock critics can be fooled as much as the next guy. Probably even more: it seems that when critics don’t understand something, they’re more likely to say it’s brilliant than crappy, fearing they’ll be called out for not “getting it.”
So rock critics can be partially dismissed. But when generation after generation of bands come out and list Velvet Underground as a major influence, you kind of have to pay attention. Sure, some of them are trying to look cool, but a lot of them were genuinely influenced by this band and this record. It made an impact on them. It changed the way they thought about and created music. And they made records that influenced other people… and so it grows outward. There are probably thousands of bands making music right now that were influenced by this band and don’t even know it. So I think the record is undeniably influential.
And you can’t judge a record’s greatness or influence by the lack of polish in the musical delivery. Lots of polished, extremely capable musicians put out bland, derivative crap every year. This record is raw and that’s what a lot of people love about it. Tom Waits sounds like he’s got steel wool in his throat, but I love him. Some people hate him. But our personal taste doesn’t make him any more or less influential in the music scene. Musicians decide that for themselves, and then they go and put out records. So I think the Lou Reed-as-con-artist argument is a pretty hard one to make by now.
As far as my opinion of the album goes, I happen to like it a lot, although I understand detractors’ opinions about Nico, who sometimes sounds great and sometimes makes me grit my teeth. But as far as the sloppy, lo-fi instrumentation and production goes, it definitely works for me.
Waiting for the Man
All Tomorrow’s Parties
There She Goes Again
I’ll Be Your Mirror
I love all of those songs, and that’s a pretty high songs-I-love-to-songs-on-record percentage. I’m not crazy about Venus in Furs and Black Angel’s Death Song, but the rest are either great or good enough. For me, that’s a classic album.
8.5 of 10
–Greg at The UnCool
One Response to “The UnLive | Album Review: The Velvet Underground and Nico”
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.