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The Velvet Underground & Nico

by The Velvet Underground & Nico

Released March 12, 1967 via Verve Records

Reviewed March 9, 2022

Top tracks (based on community voting)
Heroin (78%), Sunday Morning (67%), Venus In Furs (47%)

“Famous banana album is good” is the foundation of almost every review for this record, including this one, but I can’t help but to think of the rockism that informs a lot of its support. Whilst it only saw published, in-print appreciation after Brian Eno’s famous “30,000 bands” quote in 1982, those thirty-thousand bands—rock or not—who loved it from release, had been taught that convention wasn’t a rule to conform to. Ironically, white rock-centrism perpetuated as a rule after the album’s legacy first began to unfold and the sub-genres it foreshadowed were being fully realised. Nevertheless, its sensitivity to themes like sadistic kinks and drug abuse were unprecedented, using clearer imagery than others’ material which danced around the detail. “Venus In Furs” builds a moody tension and brings a lot of new timbral combinations and techniques—such as electric violas, detuning, drone, and distortion, with hypnotic string-squeaks and tambourine claps. Meanwhile, “I’ll Be Your Mirror” sustains the sunny art-pop that much of the record envisions, with lax guitar licks following Nico’s throaty lead vocals. It is one of the earliest examples in the genre that tackles mental health or self-perception in such a directly uplifting way, as if its lyrics had been pulled back from the future, straight-out of midwest emo with a more mature, yet also childlike kindliness to them. The Velvet Underground & Nico predicted and/or caused a lot of rock’s derivative movements including punk, garage, krautrock, shoegaze, goth, and alt-rock—possibly the largest portion of music history that could be attributed to a single album. – Cam (10/10)

A landmark record within the entire landscape of rock, The Velvet Underground & Nico is a timeless record with immeasurable influence. Perhaps the biggest testimony to its longevity and influence is the fact it was a commercial failure, only to have a resurgence of praise about a decade after its release. Musically led by the pairing of Lou Reed and John Cale, creatively guided by an all-time eccentric in Andy Warhol, the world of 1967 wasn’t yet ready for what VU brought to the table. Lou Reed’s role as the band’s primary songwriter gave way to some of rock's most beautiful, yet dark and controversial lyrics. Never shying away from graphic imagery, and a true wonder with words, The Velvet Underground & Nico delves into the topics of heroin use, BDSM, and other forms of deviancy; while rock had already been a point of controversy in the 1960s, it was never as outwardly taboo as Reed set out to be. John Cale deliberately pushed the band to experiment, which is most notably reflected in Cale’s distorted, droning viola playing and the unconventional guitar tuning that Reed often made use of. Pairing Nico with Reed on vocals adds an additional layer to the band’s sounds that their later records—which would not feature her—don’t quite have, with Nico’s light vocals serving as the perfect complement to Reed’s despair-driven delivery. The Velvet Underground & Nico is not the most refined record there is, but it is one of the most daring, innovative, and downright brilliant works of not only the 1960s, but of all-time. – Dominick (10/10)

The perennially influential debut record from the Velvet Underground celebrates its 55th year of existence. The branches on the family tree of rock grew fervently longer and more colourful after the release of this record. The doors of possibility seemed wide open as The Velvet Underground paved the way for acts decades in advance of their existence. Stepping out on a limb, you bear fruits that are out of reach and hidden from view. The sleazy narratives portrayed across the record—especially on tracks such as “Heroin” and “Femme Fatale”—pull away from the norm of the times. Things were beginning to loosen up a little towards the closing chapters of the 60's and things were coming undone; the daydream bubble was about to be well and truly burst. The album that wouldn't sell well at all when first released can teach us a lot about influence. It's a long-term game. Do your thing and move on. Time will tell. – Peter (9.5/10)

Cam: 10/10 | Dominick: 10/10 | Hadley: 10/10 | Jared: 10/10

Ben (Synth): 9.5/10 | Peter: 9.5/10 | Alan: 9.2/10 | DeVán: 9/10


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