Just like the other review for this album I will use this quote; “It was said that only a few thousand people ever bought a Velvet Underground album, but every one of them formed a Rock 'n' roll band.” While this statement can’t be completely true there is truth to it. The Velvet Underground are very inspiring, as soon as I finished listening to this album I wrote a song and that was the first song I myself wrote and enjoyed and if I ever make it "big" I will definitely owe some of my success to them. With this opening statement finished on with the review.
This cd was actually a bit of a surprise. I was expecting a bit more experimentation, but it’s mostly very well written and catchy songs. Let me be the first to say, this is not a con. The first track is a prime example of the pop catchiness of this album. It has a chorus that just asks you to sing along with; “Ba ba ba baaaaaa, who loves the sun"” The message in the song is actually kind of contradictory to the poppy and upbeat feel of the song as Lou asks; “Who loves the sun" Who cares that it makes plants grow" Who cares what it does since you broke my heart"” And it really shows that lost love can make you forget about all the good things that make life fun. Sweet Jane is another example of the newer catchier VU. Really the only thing that keeps this from being a full blown pop song (if it isn’t) is Lou’s raspy vocals. His voice is very casual and it’s not completely singing during the verses. It’s like if someone was talking to you and occasionally threw some different pitches that worked. When the chorus comes up; it’s hard not to sing along to; “Sweeeet Jane!” Now, those were two good examples of the poppy music on this, but Lonesome Cowboy Bill is the best. It’s at a faster tempo and really has an infectious feeling. To be honest, the level of the pop catchiness is kind of annoying sometimes, especially at the last chorus. The song starts out enjoyable but then near the end you’re glad it’s over.
While Rock & Roll can be classified with the above I’d say more rock oriented, not just because of the title it just has that rougher sound to it. It has to have one of the catchiest guitar rhythms I’ve ever heard and the simple drum beat gives even more to it. Then to take you off guard there’s a semi psychedelic piece after the first solo that is basically some really nice sliding on the guitar that has the notes matched very well by a nice voice humming. To finish this off they decided to use the go into chaos outro with the singers echoing Lou in a back and forth; “It’s all right!” with the occasional Oh! Babay! Now, the hardest song on here would definitely be Head Held High. It got a really great hard blues rock feeling that only gets heightened when those little guitar fills come in and with Lou’s loud and raspy voice which kind of reminds me of what Jim Morrison would later try. There’s not a lot to say about the song as hard blues rock really does that job. Probably the “coolest” rock song is Cool It Down and when I say “cool” I really mean “cool”. During the verses it’s very mellow and has a very relaxed feeling and that ‘cool’ sound is augmented by Lou’s raspy whispered voice and perfect delivery. The chorus is where the song really takes a change as the guitar gives it its bluesier feel, then the piano comes in sounding just like the ones from the ol’ Wild West.
It’s not all pop and rock though, there are some beautiful songs here. The first that comes to mind would be I Found A Reason. It’s got a topic that’s used quite a lot in these type of songs, basically it’s about finding girl who gives you hope , but there is a semi cheesy spoken word that you might think takes down the quality but for some reason it doesn’t. Even though it’s cheesy it’s necessary to make the song what it is. The ending of the song has the same feeling as the rest of the song but has a bit of desperation as voices sing; “You better come, come, come. Come to me.” New Age falls under the category of soft and beautiful and is one of the songs that has a verse that sounds perfect without rhyme. “Can I have your autograph"” he said to the fat blond actress. You know, I've seen every movie you've been in, from "Pass of Pain" to "Duels of Glory". The groove of the song really makes it sound nice. During the last chorus it sounds like things are going to pick up and get lighter but then you go back into the soft verse. But then you here a guitar line building up to a more enthusiastic ending. It goes into a perfect way to finish off the song with the best part being when Lou says; “It’s the beginning of a new age.”
Oh! Sweet Nuthin’ while it is a softer song it has a bit of a hopeful feeling all throughout unlike the other softer songs. It’s like when you’re watching a sunrise and everything seems to be coming together. Kind of ironic as this is the finisher on the final Velvet Underground album, everything’s coming apart. With this song they chose not to go out with a bang, but with a ray of hope and a well written song.
The combination of pop and rock on here is great. The Velvet Underground didn’t go out with something innovative or different; they went out with some fun songs and some meaningful ones. If it weren’t for those softer songs I would be writing in this paragraph that I thought that this album was just made to finish off their contract or something like that, but even though it might have been (I don’t know anything about the bands history, so I’m not sure) the songs on this album show that they at least wanted to go out with some dignity and not just a ***ty album full of filler.
Cool It Down
Rock & Roll
Who Loves The Sun
Oh! Sweet Nuthin'