Masterpiece of Art Rock – Fran’s Review

The sleepy opening track, Sunday Morning, eases the listener gently into The Velvet Underground and Nico by the Velvet Underground and Nico. The themes of the album seem slightly out of sync with this peaceful beginning, but then the peaceful beginning is not representative of the music that follows either. This is a hedonistic album, telling its tales of sex and drugs with relish.

The Velvet Underground’s experimental style creates some brilliantly moody tracks. The piercing instrumental cries on Venus In Furs enhance the dark atmosphere of the piece, and throughout the record the simple percussion drives the album forward, without becoming tiresome. I am less keen, however, on Nico’s flat vocal style; she has a distinctive voice, but after every track she sings on I feel I would have enjoyed it more had someone else sung it. I would also prefer the Velvet Underground not to drag out the ends of their songs so much; this is particularly the case at the close of the album, when European Son goes on for six minutes or so after it should have ended!

Amongst an album of great tracks it is hard to single out a favourite, but the ever so heartfelt Heroin is definitely among the best. With its heart-pumping drums and impassioned lyrics, this love song not only tells of complete devotion, but also puts you in the shoes of the devotee. The calm of the strings and the pervasive drumbeat draws you into the singer’s uncompromisingly focussed state of mind. As the song progresses to a racing climax you get a taste of the all-enveloping addiction the narrator describes, and it sounds fabulous.

★★★★★

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5 Responses to Masterpiece of Art Rock – Fran’s Review

  1. Dave says:

    I also don’t have a favourite on the album – it’s between three or four songs.

    Love song? I thought it was just about heroin. Am I missing a deeper meaning?

    • Fran says:

      It is about heroin, but it’s in the language of a love song: “it’s my wife and it’s my life”. First time I heard it I didn’t listen to the lyrics properly and I thought it was a love song because the passion portrayed is the kind of sentiment you’d get in a song about devoted love.

      • Dave says:

        I think our reviews are quite similar this week, especially in structure. Although mine is a little longer and more butt-kissing than yours.

        • Fran says:

          Well, there are some key differences. Namely your love of Nico and the interminable six-minute guitar improv bits! It’s interesting that we both picked out Heroin though.

          • Dave says:

            I think the album is set up to climax with Heroin. It’s a very well structured album, with a gentle opener and a long, fading outro (that perhaps invites you to turn off the record). I see Heroin as the focus, especially with that building note played in it.

            Love is a bit overboard, but I do like her singing, and I think she sings on some of the best songs. All Tomorrow’s Parties is amazing and got better and better as the week went on. There’s something about her foreignness that gives that song something different. This might sound weird, but it’s kind of like she’s not human, perhaps an alien or a god or a robot, and her voice has an authority about it. This goes well with the narrative style of the lyrics. (Listening to it again, it might be they’ve double layered it – it’s probably just that). Whereas on Femme Fatale and I’ll Be Your Mirror, it’s a lot more delicate, like an alien/god/robot that can love. Saying that, I like both singers pretty much equally and the contrast is nice to have. Reed on Venus In Furs – wow!

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