The Velvet Underground – White Light/White Heat

Today’s album is“White Light/White Heat” by The Velvet Underground here’s the track listing.  No your eyes don’t deceive you, there’s only technically six songs on here:


RC: The Velvet Underground – White Light/White Heat

Ugh. Isn’t this that band that is a bunch of people from Guns N Roses fled to when Axl’s ego got bigger than his booty is now?

After Listening:
Oh. That’s Velvet Revolver.
I do dig the spoken word though it’s hard to actually hear it with the guitar levels being at what they are. The recording quality is pretty terrible, but it doesn’t make it a terrible album. In fact, I like many parts of it. However, the super feedbacky parts are a little irritating and the guitar solos that don’t even attempt to complement the tempo set forth by the others are infuriating. At points it sounds like a sh**ty garage band right before the dad comes in and tells them to “Turn down that racket!” … I fear I am turning into Clint Eastwood from Gran Turino… and I have never seen that movie.

Favorite track/tracks:
The Gift – I think that if there is a cover of this out there with the spoken word stylings of Stephen Fry I would have definitely heard of this band. Can we approach him to do this? Maybe have the guitar exchanged for a few ukuleles?

Least favorite track/tracks:
I Hear Her Call My Name – EVERYBODY SOLO!

Overall (1-5 stars):   2
The parts that I loved really didn’t balance the parts that I disliked.


The Velvet Underground – White Light/White Heat: 3.5 stars

Precon: A lot of talk-singing and sing-talking over some experimental rock. My curiosity about them was mostly satisfied with the Lou Reed album last season, though I’ll be happy to get an actual Velvet album under my belt.

Favorite Track: Lady Godiva’s Operation, most of Sister Ray
Least Favorite: I Heard Her Call My Name, a couple parts of Sister Ray

The Jerry Lee Lewis feel of the title track was unexpected and a strange match for Reed’s semi-disinterested vocals and neutered “white light/heat” refrains.
The Gift is a nice little experiment with prose. The backing instrumental track does well to decrease its skippability on repeat listens. Lou Reed has a very distinct voice. I don’t think he’s supposed to sing though. I could see him as a radio announcer or maybe someone who reads books on tape. It’s actually jarring when he comes in on Lady Godiva’s Operation. Maybe that was the intent. Lady Godiva is an interesting mix of pleasant singing, dark subject matter, droning guitar, not so pleasant singing, and wookie noises. I’ll never understand why feedback is looked at as a good thing. Distortion, on the other hand, can be put to good use, as it is on Sister Ray. There are some parts when it becomes a little trying, but it’s mostly bend, don’t break, that is until about 12 minutes in when there’s that piercing, high pitched noise. That sucked. I never realized what a nice trochaic rhythm the phrase “sucking on my ding dong” has. I really should work it into conversation more. A weird mix of songs. I like it for the most part. I do end up wondering why they were so influential, but I’m chalking that up to hearing them 45 years after the fact.

Magic the Gathering Card Assigned: “Feedback”


Preconceived Notions: I guess it’s about time the RC tackled the critical monster known as Velvet Underground.  I mean like most I’ve heard Sweet Jane, but haven’t gone much father than later era Velvet. I’ve avoided them largely due to lack of interest, though I have to say over the last few years they are one of the groups I always intend on delving deeper into, and I never got there.  So here we are…Lou Reed last RC go round, Velvet this time.  Let’s see what the hype is about.

After Listening:  Well this is certainly a departure from the previous Velvet Underground stuff I’ve heard, although since this came previous to albums like Loaded, I guess it’s more accurate to say – it’s an odd forerunner.  Which is actually fantastic, b/c you can tell it was a decision to experiment – rather than an album that just didn’t come out right – Lou Reed and the gang were not fans of stagnation, or ones to fear risk it appears.  The overall tone is way more aggressive than I thought it would be coming in…sort of an aural assault of feedback and violent imagery.  And yet to me, each song is distinct in this context there’s no overriding cohesion-which actually makes me admire the thing even more…..transitions like the end of the feedback riddled “I Heard Her call my Name”  to the sort of easy rolling “Sister Ray”  seem to work like studies in slight contrast.  Being the late 60’s there were technical things in the studio not yet perfected that could’ve harnessed even more of the album’s overall rawness, and so you can tell there are some limitations sonically in volume, and clarity in spots.

Favorite Tracks: “The Gift” – The lyrical story itself is great, with a man working himself up into an obsession that will eventually, and quite by accident end his life.  But they also very cleverly pan the imagery of the story into the left side, and all the music into the right.  The pulsing bass, and jangy guitar – which is spaced out provide an excellent soundtrack to a monologue.  In fact, if every prolonged jam had a narrative over top of it, perhaps I wouldn’t have such a generally negative few of “jam” bands.

“I Heard Her Call My Name” – An energetic number with long guitar solo stretches, and yes, plenty of feedback.  Actually until about the point where Reed sings “and then my mind split open”, it’s a fairly straightforward rock sound with mutli voiced chorus.  The feedback which follows “mind split open”, however signifies that the thing will only go off the tracks from here, and as promised we get some generally hard to listen to squealing, while the drums accelerate, and the bass drives.  It’s chaos, loud and obnoxious, and a little bit wonderful.

Least Favorite: “Sister Ray”  – It’s not the length, which is seemingly an odd thing to say when analyzing a song about a transvestite drug dealer and his merry friends.   I certainly don’t mind the subject matter, or really the free form experimentation, but my issue with this song is that after we are done hearing the story there’s really nothing added musically to keep one interested.   The song begins with a promising groove and an interesting choice to have no bass – in favor of an organ.   But after about minute 7 the song loses any punch when they start jamming, the jam is based off only three chords – and while all types of noise is experimented with, it still just amounts to one unorganized jam from which nothing special develops.  Improv can be an amazing musical tool – and so it isn’t the “one take” live approach that irks me, it’s just that it’s not executed well here.   They should’ve done at least another take- the 2nd half of this song is beyond stale.

Overall 4.4   I have to admit, I was impressed by this effort.  It challenged what I thought about the Velvet Underground, and may spur me on to checking out more of their efforts (although it seems that this was a unique album even for them).  Lou Reed is one of those artists I always had a vague respect for, but in practice found it difficult to embrace.  Part of me loves that he makes it difficult, hence my fascination with this record.  This is a band doing “their thing”, and really doing it.   Experimentation that can actually be considered ahead of its time – this album is both a forerunner to punk, and the NY avant-garde jazz scene- I didn’t know any of that before I listened, but it’s clear that so many bands tried similar things after this and failed.   Oh sure, you’re probably not popping on these tunes rolling down the highway with the sun shining, or putting this on at a party…or even listening to the full album alone in your living room.  BUT not all music is about every day listens, this was important and is generally an impressive collection of musical ideas.  A thank you to whomever suggested this listen.


Velvet Underground – White Light/White Heat

Preconceptions: I’m a fan. I’ve listened to this album a few times, but not in a while.

After Listening: I thing the thing that is most striking about Velvet Underground is that it sounds so ahead of its time, and truly avant-garde even within the context of the late 60s when people were pushing boundaries at every opportunity. This album has many moments of chaotic and urgent sounding music, particularly the final two tracks, which—and not to romanticize too much here—is totally appropriate for its release in 1968, which was the most turbulent and revolutionary year in an era of turbulence and revolution. (speaking of which, read the book 1968 by Mark Kurlansky. It’s excellent)

But back to White Light/White Heat—Lou Reed is just, well, incredible. He delivers his vocals with the same sort of urgency of Dylan’s vocals, but with a decidedly cooler aesthetic. Man, he’s a cool mutherfu*cker (so cool that I went with the obviously cooler mu- rather than mo- spelling for mutherfu*cker). Bottom line, Reed is amazeballs—to quote our esteemed ukulele strumming Record Club colleague.

So, yeah, this album is incredibly cool and awesome to me. I dig the Nico stuff too, but this is just amazing.

Favorites: Sister Ray, The Gift, White Light/White Heat

Least: Can’t decide. None of the songs are remotely bad.

Overall: 4.7 stars

Extra credit: Social Distortion, White Light, White Heat, White Trash

The embodiment of this album in NBA player form is: Amare Stoudemire, because of his limitless swag and cool, just like Lou Reed and VU


Velvet Underground – White Light, White Heat

Preconceptons: I am ashamed that I have never listened to this. It is one of the best-regarded proto-punk albums and a huge influence on many bands I love.

After Listening: Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu…  ck this album.

Likes: none, really

Yikes: The Gift- Hey Kids! Reginald Patel’s Urban Legend Story Hour is 8+ minutes too long.
Lady Godiva’s Operation- monotonous amazingly annoying.
Sister Ray… Ah, Sister Ray. This song was probably engineered in a lab to be my least favorite song ever. Like Burton & Speke on their long, arduous journey, I kept a journal:
6 minutes: I am wishing I had some ICP to listen to.
8 minutes: I am sure I’ll never need to hear the phase “ding dong” again.
10 minutes: I am actually getting angry. I have yet to determine with whom.
11 minutes: Alright, ENOUGH with the dingdong fcktard!
14 minutes: I need to go punch a nun. BRB
15 minutes: My love, as I write this, I can see no way I’ll ever survive to return to you again. Forgive me my selfish folly and remember me fondly. If they return my body to you, bury me under the pear tree we spent so many evenings under. If not, please stab John Cale in the taint then take a crap on Andy Warhol’s grave.
16 minutes: This crunchathwangtwangtwang noise is gonna go the full 17+, isn’t it?
17 minutes: Oh I hope I hear another dingdong before this is over.

Overall: Really? Huh…. I like Reed’s solo stuff, but this is art school onanism at it’s worst. I’m sure they thought they were being lyrically and sonically daring but after the last 17+ minute tale of dingdong suckin’, it all shakes out as a stupid, grating, indulgent, and pointless exercise. Fk this album.

Rating: .02
Prelisten Guess: 4.0
Season to Date: -.38

Extra Credit: The Stooges – Raw Power Or, just burn the contents of your wallet while looking at a can of soup. Then punch yourself in the pants. Bingo, you’ve got the late 60s NYC artrock experience without the smack habit.



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Record Club began in the cold, dank, snowmageddon scene that was New England of January 2011. We’re probably no different than you. We all work in cubicles, some in smaller, less private cubicles than others; that just means we have to be even sneakier about how we listen to our music. But we have to listen to our music, mostly as a way of saving our own personal sanity. Sometimes our opinions lead us to debates that may or may not be published in their entirety on this site, but I can promise you’ll at least get a glimpse of the way our minds work. The main goal is to find new music we like or find old music that we didn’t know we liked. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes it’s a total and complete disaster. After our ears have rejoiced or stopped bleeding we try something else. This is our pattern, every Tuesday and Thursday. Sometimes, when the club isn’t officially in session, just to keep everyone on their toes, we throw in a theme day. We’re beginning to run low on our original list, so please, if you have albums that you’d like us to review or themes that you’d like to see our playlist of, feel free to contribute. After all, we’re all in this together once we punch the time clock. So if you’re busy (or just plain bored) lurking in your cubicle as you read this join in. After all, life wasn’t meant to be lived staring at a computer screen. I guarantee you, it’s at least more fun when you plug the headphones in.

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