Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Whey-faced Brits at Their Worst

Last week UK paper The Guardian asked a bunch of pop musicians and fellow travellers to nominate the allegedly classic album that most struck them as overrated tripe. The results were mostly unsurprising -- the usual swipes at Sgt. Pepper and Pet Sounds -- although there were some digs, including one at the Strokes ("the new Duran Duran"), that kind of tickled me.

The following, however, really steamed my beans.

What kind of heathen dislikes the Velvet Underground and Nico?
Novelist and music lover Ian Rankin gives his reasons


This is a sacred cow but that doesn't mean it can't be turned into hamburger. You can start before you even listen to the music. The front of the album bears the name Andy Warhol and a yellow banana - there's no mention of the band whatsoever. The back of the album says it was produced by Andy Warhol alongside the Velvets, so straight away I'm annoyed. It's one of the worst-produced albums of all time - put it on a modern hi-fi and you'll think: this sounds like shit. It's muddy, the volume comes and goes, the guitars are all out of tune, as is the viola. John Cale is one of the great Welshmen, but the viola on Venus In Furs sounds like a Tom and Jerry sound effect. And Nico's voice is flat throughout - she sings English the way I sing German. Talk about looks being everything: she was a supermodel trying to sing in a rock band, but she couldn't sing - she gave good dirge.

It all flags up that the Velvet Underground were just part of Warhol's circus, his Factory; just another product. Once you start thinking about the Velvets being part of that, the notion of them waiting around for the man is ludicrous. As far as introducing the idea of nihilism to rock, the first Doors album, which came out the same year, was far better produced, far darker, and more nihilistic. Ditto the first Mothers of Invention album. Those two were from the west coast; the Velvets were from New York. And this was New York trying too hard. There's a line in Venus in Furs about "ermine furs adorn imperious". Those are four words that should never appear in a rock song and here they are put together. And the last two tracks are completely unlistenable: The Black Angel's Death Song and European Son, which constitute 11 minutes and one fifth of the album.


Jeebus. Rankin's a really good writer, but man -- talk about totally missing the point.

Oh, and by the way -- that idiot from Franz Ferdinand who dissed Television's Marquee Moon can just blow me.

[h/t John McPartlin]

9 comments:

Kid Charlemagne said...

Franz Ferdinand = The new The Fixx!

steve simels said...

Exactly right.

Nancy Willing said...

Don't knock my VU bitches!!!!!
Television hailed from my neck of the woods but I missed them altogether in teh day :-(
A bit too young, I guess.

dave™© said...

I had a poster of "Marquee Moon" hagning over my bed in college...

ms. rosa said...

yeah, i just need to see the letters f-r-a-n-z-f-e-r...and i know to just stop. put it down. and walk away slowly...

Anonymous said...

Kapranos is a clot. If he ever turns up in my hood, his not-even-able-to-emulate-a-rudimentary-Richard-Lloyd-guitar-run fingers are gonna get broken, and his jackass FIery Fucktard girlfriend's not gonna be able to do a thing about it.

I exaggerate, of course. But he should still stay out of Brooklyn.

Cygirl said...

The one in that article that really twisted me was the dork from Art Brut! ripping on The Stone Roses first album....

Anonymous said...

I'm happy they managed to get a rap album in there, although singling out Tupac as overrated is about as easy as singling out Nirvana, given the pop cultural weight that each carries.

Loved, loved the Strokes dig.

-Jay C.

Anonymous said...

I agree. When It comes to Music, Rankin is just an idiot... The comment about Black Angels Death Song being unlistenable was particulary disgracful considering the quality of both the music and more importantly the lyrics. I took this article as a personal insult...

The one about Marquee Moon also made me angry. Franz Ferdinand are an okay(ish) band but Alex Kapranos can go hell for all I care.

anyway, I wholeheartedly condone a witch hunt