The Velvet Underground

(1969), 8.5/10
With John Cale forced out of the band, the group’s focus changes towards gentler material, and while there are vestiges of the avant-garde nature of the original band, with provocative lyrics (‘Some Kinda Love’) and experimental music (the eight minute ‘The Murder Mystery’), by and large The Velvet Underground is based around Reed’s song-writing. New bass player Doug Yule gets a lead vocal in the sweet opener ‘Candy Says’, a deceptively sweet opener in the same vein as ‘Sunday Morning’ from the debut, while Tucker gets the spotlight on the fey closer ‘After Hours’, her plain voice adding a touching dimension to another surprisingly pleasant song. Elsewhere the material’s just plain uplifting; ‘Jesus’ is a straightforward religious platitude, while ‘I’m Set Free’ also harbours gospel overtones. The album’s crown jewel is the sweet ‘Pale Blue Eyes’, seemingly a straightforward love song even though Reed can’t help but throw in disarming lines like “The fact that you are married/Just proves that you’re my best friend.” ‘The Murder Mystery’ is the most experimental piece here, but it still works with a distinctive Tucker drum riff, the intertwining vocals, and the final breakdown into a disorienting piano piece. A lot of The Velvet Underground is subtle enough that it does take a few listens to sink in, but it’s impressive when it does.

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