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The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground

The Velvet Underground 1969 album

The Velvet Underground

(1969), 8.5/10
With John Cale forced out of the band, The Velvet Underground’s focus changes towards gentler material. 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’), 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 throws 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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