Released: Nov 1970
Genre: Art Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Proto-Punk
Number Of Tracks: 10
Fourth album "Loaded" is a departure from their Andy Warhol influenced heyday, and was unabashedly aimed to increase the band's airplay and commercial success.
benthegrunge, on june 03, 2014 2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Sound: Since his recent death, reminiscing into the career of Lou Reed has been on the agenda for many, including Macaulay Culkin who launched a pizza-themed tribute band, The Pizza Underground - but that's a rather different review. Under the thin excuse of being a naïve twenty-something, I had not thoroughly delved into the band past their seminal "Velvet Underground and Nico," but that excuse has expired. Fourth album "Loaded" is a departure from their Andy Warhol influenced heyday, and was unabashedly aimed to increase the band's airplay and commercial success. This is always a dangerous proposition bound to divide opinion, especially when said-band are cult icons of alternative rock, credited by many as inventing punk before punk, and others as being genius and one of the best bands ever.
As a consequence of its aim to make hit pop songs, the album is notably less experimental than its predecessors and more derivative of the greats. "Who Loves the Sun" and "Oh! Sweet Nuthin" sound like The Beatles meets American pop. "I Found a Reason" sounds a little Simon and Garfunkel, with gentle background harmonies and wholesome sentiment. Either side of "New Age," Reed's songs are a fairly homogenous ode to fifties and sixties rock 'n' roll. "Head Held High" and "Lonesome Cowboy Bill" in particular channel The Rolling Stones. The outcome is that "Loaded" doesn't even feel like a "sell-out" to anyone with their head glued on, as its respectable roots are the same roots that the band always grew from. What puts Velvet Underground ahead of other acts is that although they challenged, no one can accuse them of being wholly anti-music, at any point, and this is certainly the case with "Loaded." It doesn't really compromise the music as there is still sophistication about what the band is doing, even if it isn't as arty and groundbreaking as "Venus in Furs." // 8
Lyrics: Despite lacking the psychedelic subversion that made the band's name, "Loaded"'s saving grace is that the songs are very well written. If their mission was to do a good straight edge record then they succeeded. The tracks performed by Doug Yule, in a style similar to George Harrison that nicely breaks up the Reed tunes, are actually my pick of the album. The verses of "New Age" are especially cleverly framed, as the speaker asks for an autograph from a "fat blonde actress," past her prime. This gives way to a melancholic pre-chorus of "you're over the hill and looking for love" before the mood picks up. Reed's vocal highlight is probably "Sweet Jane," a story about the compensatory pleasures of blue-collar living. His delivery features silly, charismatic interjections ("you know killers never blink their eyes-oooo!") and a casual drawl that reminds me of Jimi Hendrix. // 9
Overall Impression: Pound for pound, "Loaded" probably ties with their banana-clad debut for songwriting quality, but is very straight, sounding more or less like a Stones, Beatles and Dylan mash-up. This is to the bands credit, proving if proof were needed that they weren't just some hipster, avant-garde artist; they were also capable out and out rockers. However you can see why "Loaded" isn't their most memorable classic. Save Reed's vocals, it has no real distinguishing features. Analysis set aside, it should be taken for what it is, a record that could be called too safe in another band's hands, but is a pleasing curveball in the context of Velvet Underground. // 8