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The Velvet Underground – Loaded

September 27, 2007

By the time Loaded came out, The Velvet Underground were essentially out of commission. Upon it’s release, Lou Reed followed John Cale and split, leaving the band without it’s two most important members. The story behind Loaded is one that fans know all too well. Asked to make an album “loaded with hits,” they did just that and candy-coated their last real album for mass consumption. It worked, to some extent, but Loaded always felt kind of dull, and really didn’t come anywhere close to the other albums.

The Velvets follow through with their promise with the first three songs, arguably their three most popular and likeable songs ever. Who Loves The Sun is a personal favorite VU track, a really nice, longing love song. The little sparkly interlude at the beginning of Sweet Jane is just as memorable and momentous as the brilliant hook itself. Rock and Roll is also an easy winner. But then things crash, really fast.

The album gets more flak than it deserves, that much I will admit. It is still, in retrospect, a really solid album, but it’s pretty obvious that for VU fans, it is sort of a broken blessing. It has some of the bands most traditional, popular songs, but it also lacks any real contour or interesting twists or anything, which was essentially what the band had been known to do at that point. After making The Velvet Underground and Nico and White Light / White Heat, two of the most progressive and unique albums of their generation, it would be unreasonable to expect the trailblazing to continue. You can’t win them all. By the time Loaded was released, it is pretty obvious that everyone is just tired and wants to crank out a record. Bassist Doug Yule was given some significant songwriting and vocal duties here, and to be honest, he was pretty disposable. The album dips dangerously low around the middle with the trifecta of mediocrity that is Cool Down, New Age, and Head Held High, three of the Velvets most forgettable songs ever.

There is a bounceback. I’ll admit to liking Lonesome Cowboy Bill, even though I know it’s cheesy. The same goes for I Found A Reason. It falls into the much sought after It’s So Cheesy It’s Good category. At the very least, it’s fairly unique. I’ll also give it to them, they made one hell of a last song, Oh! Sweet Nuthin’. It has a really classic, tired, conclusive, slow groove to it that is really fitting. Both Sweet Nuthin’ and Who Loves The Sun were included on the High Fidelity soundtrack, and rightfully so, because they are both classic VU.

It’s alright. I’ll give it one thing. I have never seen an album more shockingly broken than this. It’s high points are sheer brilliance and it’s low points are almost embarassing. What is in between feels like it should be leaning towards one direction but can’t convince the listener either way. It’s definitely a good album. But there is not much here that is challenging or pushes any of the bands limits like the other albums did. My favorite thing about the Velvets, and what makes VU&N one of my absolute favorites, is how individual all of their songs are, but this album has a style that is easy to pin and rather forgettable. For a last album, it’s respectable, though.

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