Home Read Features Area Resident’s Classic Album Review: Lou Reed | Metal Machine Music

Area Resident’s Classic Album Review: Lou Reed | Metal Machine Music

His record label wanted to cash in on his recent success — so naturally, the eternal contratian and self-sabotager made an unlistenable album of instrumental noise.

I have always considered myself a Lou Reed fan — but maybe I’m not. Or at least not an indiscriminate one — especially when it comes to his solo output. After leaving The Velvet Underground, the late legend made 20 studio albums as a solo artist, along with two more collaborations. Of those albums, I was only familiar with five. So I decided to listen to and review the remaining 15. At times it was like torture.

In a nutshell, Reed has a big basket of bonafide classics. Unique, unmistakable and ground-breaking songs which combine poetry and prose with a variety of music styles. But he also recorded a fly-ridden heap of awful, awful songs featuring his distinctive but poor singing, along with excessive sax and fretless bass.

Here’s one of the entries in his uneven catalog:



In the wake of Lou Reed’s popular and successful 1974 outing Sally Can’t Dance, his record label RCA naturally wanted a followup album as quickly as possible, hoping to cash in and maintain Reed’s career and commercial momentum.

Naturally, eternal contratian / self-sabotager Reed turned over the tapes to an unlistenable double album of instrumental noise. Metal Machine Music’s four 16-minute “songs” — one per side of each vinyl LP — are nothing more than modulated feedback and guitar effects. They sound exactly the same. RCA took it off the market after three weeks because so many fans were trying to return their copy for a refund.

Two things about this 1975 album I find hilarious: One, that Reed released a remastered version in 2011. And two, that an ambient tribute album just came out in May. Both of these in spite of the fact that Reed once said anyone who managed to make it to Part 4 is “dumber than I am.”



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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.