Thursday, March 02, 2006

When Critics And Pretentiousness Screw Music Up

The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground & Nico

1967, Verve

Yesterday i was reading some stuff at Mark Prindle's website, where he reviews a shitload of bands' entire discographies (actually, i have it listed on my Links thing to your right, you'll fall out of your chair laughing when reading about Lady Terminator on the Dinosaur Jr reviews and his very apt comparison of Jarboe on Neurosis' discography) and i was reading the Velvet Underground's, because coincidentially enough, i've been listening to the band's debut album; surprisingly, Mark doesn't like the Velvet Underground (which i understand once you pick up, after casually reading some of his writings that he is all about pissing on sacred cows and being an irreverent wiseass in the process), and i started to read the comments people leave after each entry/disc, a lot of people agreed with Mark and said the Velvet was shit and others, predictably, were defending theband's work. What ticked me off wasn't the people against the album or the band but that everyone who tried to defend the album, why? you may ask, well, the reason is because each one of these persons that tried to clarify why this band deserved such reverence made it look like the most pretentious, snobby and dogmatic thing in the history of arts, all they wanted to rationalize why this band SHOULD be considered the best of the best, couting reasons, dates, influences, influencees, etc etc. A person in particular, who wrote his response in spanish, pissed me off; all he was trying to explain was that he somehow felt they were grading him for his Spelling and Written Composition course, like if it was an example on how to write a poem following predetermined structures and putting a certain number of metaphors and comparisons to pass the class without having to do a final exam. NOBODY talked about the emotions found on the recording, about the power the music had or some other stupidity that doesn't require a scholar analisis by idiots that feel like they are authorities just to feel superior to someone else. And the most stupid thing about everything is that this band and this album have all of these intangible and awesome things galore.

Conceptions like thos have kept me away for some time from a lot of bands/artists that rule because of the contexts where someone else puts them and make me feel despised by them, something i want nothing to do with it because i'm not like that at all, i don't need reasons to like stuff (especially music) i want sensations that make me wanna experience something, but if they put it like it's an obligation doing, making or saying something then i automatically do the opposite and, because of that, i've missed out on a lot of stuff (and thankfully have put my prejudgments aside long enough to discover some of my current favorites like Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo and Pavement, among many others). Critics are to blame that intentions get confused, that maybe a band just wants to make music, there's people that make it seem that it's our duty to recognize that there's some deep indulgent motive or something and that, because of that very same reason, and not because of the emotional "reasons", is the reason to bow down before their recent discovery of some jerk with a dictionary and a hell of a lotta free time (and for your information, i DO have a dictionary, but i never use it!).

So Velvet Underground & Nico...first of all, when i bought this record, i fucking hated it, it let me down, i was promised a dissonant explossion of nopise and feedback and all i got were these useless hippie/lounge ballads with Lou Reed singing like bootleg Bob Dylan (NOTE: i know and i knew that VU were against everything hippie and that is the same reason it let me down, it sounded to much like flower power shittyness for people who claimed to be so repulsed by it). Even "The Black Angel's Death Song" seemed surprisingly crappy, because it's almost impossible to have a song about Satan to suck (except if it's a band who sing nothing but about Satan, then it's possible that only a few songs won't suck), i couldn't stand it! but this is one of those records that grow on you little by little until one day, a divine light fell from the heavens to my forehead and right then, friends and acquantances of mine, everything fits and every sound you hear sounds as essential as walking or washing the dog. That's right, i'm not sure how many listens after happened but it happened and it has become one of my favorites.

So i'm not going to talk to you about how the Velvet Underground basically created the concept of underground and alternative rock or how they were one of the first bands to expand the sonic barriers of rock n' roll BLAH BLAH. I'll talk to you about MY Velvet Underground and why i think they are one of the best. First of all, in the band you find a troubador with a small case of Charles Bukowski, a female drummer who (almost always) played without a snare, cymbals or drum sticks, just mallets and toms that once she replaced with garbage cans, a guy who told contemporary classical music to shove it to play viola in a rock band, a model/actress/singer who told fame to shove it to sing three songs in a rock band and a guitar player who didn't have to do much to be icy chill (which reminds me, i'll take this opportunity to say, yes, Nico doesn't sing nice; infact, she sounds more manly than Lou Reed in the whole record, but that's the way she sings, if you want soft and pretty voices, look for them elsewhere). They all wore black turtleneck sweaters and sunglasses, they used noise in their songs and basically all they wanted was scare the shit out of the entire planet playing in a rock band. All of this in 1967, mind you; almost all of their songs are mellow but they have a palpable menace that is difficult to overlook. What you hear are rock songs that, somehow, blend folk, noise, 20th century experimental symphonic music, rockabilly, the Beatles, free jazz, garage and for some strange reason, it sounds like the most natural thing in the world.

Once i read a critic of this very same album that said that the songs in it are more like long verses and it's true, don't expect choruses or dynamics, these are pop rock chants surrounded by an atmosphere that hints us what lies whithin these or give us a false sense and fool us. Listening to these classic songs, folkloric in the sense of how natural and ancestral yet relevant and demanding, is like fighting with someone while you cuddle with them at the same time and you feel comfortable and soft, even if your guts are twisting inside from being with that person. It's like being digusted by life but feeling like there's no other way to fly. And you know that with this album, there's no other way.

So i'm uploading my 4 current favorite songs from the record...well, that's not true, actually i would swap "Venus In Furs" with "There She Goes Again" and "Heroin" with either "Black Angel's Death Song" or "European Son", but i had to put a couple for the novice and the truth is that they sort of are the stock favorites anyway...yet i love each song in the album. Listen to those songs a lot and listen loud!!!

Venus In Furs.mp3
All Tomorrow's Parties.mp3
Run Run Run.mp3


Velvet Underground website:
The Velvet Underground & Nico in Amazon
The Velvet Underground & Nico (Deluxe Edition) in Amazon