Velvet Underground provide knock out psyche punk with White Light/White Heat

WhitelightAmazingly, not many people own a Velvet Underground album that isn’t the famed banana sleeve. The Velvet’s made more that that one LP, and the two worth a further listen are the softer more tuneful Loaded, and the fabulous White Light/White Heat. We’ll look at Loaded another day, and focus our attentions to that black deathly sleeve.

White Light/White Heat saw VU taking their noise stylings to another level, finding more use for wired overdriven guitars and hypnotic pounding backbeats. Lou Reed’s lyrics also take on more speed fuelled timbre and really start to come into their own.

LP opener and title track pretty much pick up from the same place the banana LP left off, with all player hammering the instruments, belying the jazz training they’d all received in the past. The song is not too far removed from tracks like ‘Waiting for my Man’, and is possibly one of the weaker efforts on this cut. The album soon segues into the phenominal spoken word-play of The Gift, which inevitably pounds your brain from your head, whilst holding your attention with some amphetimine gonzo babble. The song peaks in and out of the reds in the EQ, and is quite simply a pretentious sonic masterpiece.

Lady Godiva’s Operation sounds like a song written for Nico, but she wasn’t in the band, so it’s left for the rest of the band to take on her phrasing and ghostly honk, mixed with Lou peeping in for the last few minutes with his trademark sneer. However brilliant Side One is, it’s the second half of this work of genius that makes the speakers cook.

The refried electric crackle of ‘I Heard Her Call My Name’ has a definite Beatle feel to it, complete with a call and response chorus. However, this being the Velvet’s, swathes of feedback and the toughest rhythm section recorded this side of The Sonics, make it something uniquely their own. It’s challenging and tough on the ears, and certainly ticks all the correct boxes. Then, the band’s opus. ‘Sister Ray’ is a sprawling epic, that assaults the listener for over 10 minutes, and features one of the greatest Hammond organ solos in history. As Reed searches for his ‘mainline’, you’re searching for the repeat button. This is an overlooked masterpiece that needs continued listens… if you’re tough enough that it.

Mof Gimmers

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