Lou Reed - Metal Machine Music
NME.COM feature on Lou Reed - Metal Machine Music album including album review, artwork, tracks, listen now, tour dates, discography and more.
Release date: 30 November 1974
Tracklisting click track to read more
- Metal Machine Music, Part I
- Metal Machine Music, Part II
- Metal Machine Music, Part III
- Metal Machine Music, Part IV
- Side 2
- Side 3
- Side 4
- Side 1
It's a surprising triumph
- Oct 28, 2011
- Feb 4, 2003
The old rocker done well...
- Sep 13, 2000
Former Velvet Underground man says he is looking 'forward to being on stage performing'
Former Velvet Underground man is recovering from operation
Five appearances from the former Velvet Underground man have been pulled 'due to unavoidable complications'
Lou Reed - Metal Machine Music: Wikipedia Album Entry
Metal Machine Music (sometimes abbreviated MMM) is an album by Lou Reed. It was originally released as a two-disc LP by RCA Records in 1975. It was reissued on a single compact disc by BMG in 1998 and again by Buddah Records in 2000.
As a radical departure from the rest of Reed's catalog, Metal Machine Music is generally considered to be either a joke, a grudging fulfillment of a contractual obligation, or an early example of noise music. Reed himself has said of the album "I was serious about it. I was also really, really stoned.". In the album's liner notes he claimed to have invented heavy metal music and asserted that Metal Machine Music was the ultimate conclusion of that genre. Despite Reed's artistic seriousness, his decision to release Metal Machine Music may have been a reluctant rejoinder to his contractual obligations with RCA.
According to Reed (despite the original liner notes), the album entirely consists of guitar feedback played at different speeds. The two guitars were tuned in unusual ways and played with different reverb levels. He would then place the guitars in front of their amplifiers, and the feedback from the very large amps would vibrate the strings - the guitars were, effectively, playing themselves. He recorded the work on a four-track tape recorder in his New York apartment, mixing the four tracks for stereo. In its original form, each track occupied one side of an LP record and lasted exactly 16:01 minutes. The fourth side ended in a locked groove that caused the last 1.8 seconds of music to repeat endlessly. The rare 8-track tape version has no silence in between programs, so that it plays continuously without gaps on most players.
A major influence on Reed's recording, and an important source for an understanding of its seriousness, was the mid-1960s work of La Monte Young's Theater of Eternal Music (whose members included John Cale, Tony Conrad, Angus Maclise and Marian Zazeela). Both Cale and Maclise were also members of The Velvet Underground (Maclise left before the group began recording). The Theater of Eternal Music's discordant sustained notes and loud amplification had influenced Cale's subsequent contribution to the Velvet Underground in his use of both discordance and feedback. Recent releases of works by Cale and Conrad from the mid-sixities, such as Cale's Inside the Dream Syndicate series (The Dream Syndicate being the alternative name given by Cale and Conrad to their collective work with Young) testify to the influence this important mid-sixties experimental work had on Reed ten years later.
In an interview with rock journalist Lester Bangs, Reed claimed that he had intentionally placed sonic allusions to classical works such Beethoven's Eroica and Pastoral Symphonies in the distortion, and that he had attempted to have the album released on RCA's Red Seal classical label; however, it is not clear if he was being serious, though he has repeated the latter claim in a recent interview.
On its release, it was reviewed in Rolling Stone magazine as sounding like "the tubular groaning of a galactic refrigerator" and as displeasing to experience as "a night in a bus terminal". In the 1979 Rolling Stone Record Guide, critic Billy Altman said it was "a two-disc set consisting of nothing more than ear-wrecking electronic sludge, guaranteed to clear any room of humans in record time." (This aspect of the album is referenced in the Bruce Sterling short story Dori Bangs.) However, the first issue of the seminal New York zine Punk, placed Reed and the album on its inaugural 1976 issue, presaging the advent of both Punk and the discordance of the New York No Wave scene. To quote critic Victor Bockris Reed's recording can be understood as "the ultimate conceptual punk album and the progenitor of New York punk rock." The album was ranked number two in the 1991 book The Worst Rock 'n' Roll Records of All Time by Jimmy Guterman and Owen O'Donnell. Only Elvis Presley's concert byplay album Having Fun With Elvis On Stage ranked worse. The book gives sympathy to legendary record cutting engineer Bob Ludwig for having to listen to the album in its entirety. (In fact, according to the liner notes of the 2000 reissue of the album, Ludwig was "totally into what Lou was doing" and compared the work to that of avant-garde classical composers Iannis Xenakis and Karlheinz Stockhausen.) In 2005, Q magazine included the album in a list of "Ten Terrible Records by Great Artists", and it ranked number four in Q's fifty worst albums of all time list.
Probably the most sympathetic appraisal of Metal Machine Music was given by rock critic Lester Bangs, who wrote that "as classical music it adds nothing to a genre that may well be depleted. As rock 'n' roll it's interesting garage electronic rock 'n' roll. As a statement it's great, as a giant FUCK YOU it shows integrity—a sick, twisted, dunced-out, malevolent, perverted, psychopathic integrity, but integrity nevertheless." Bangs later wrote a tongue-in-cheek article on Metal Machine Music titled "The Greatest Album Ever Made", in which he judged it "the greatest record ever made in the history of the human eardrum. Number Two: Kiss Alive!"
Despite the intensive criticism (or perhaps because of the exposure it generated), Metal Machine Music reportedly sold 100,000 copies in the US according to the liner notes of the Buddah Records CD issue.
Today the record is seen as an early form of ambient music and a defining pillar of the noise music and industrial music movements.
References in music
On their 1985 album Bad Moon Rising, Sonic Youth used samples from it in the songs "Brave Men Run (In My Family)" and "Society Is A Hole." Metal Machine Music was highly influential on Sonic Youth member Lee Ranaldo's solo endeavors, particularly his 1987 album From Here to Infinity, composed entirely of tape loops, feedback, and lock grooves.
The influential German industrial rock band Die Krupps released the anthology "Metall Maschinen Musik" in 1991 and the single "Metal Machine Music" in 1992. The group's singer, Jürgen Engler, stated that the term "metal music" was invented by Lou Reed on Metal Machine Music. Engler has cited Lou Reed as one of his influences.
Japanese noise artist Merzbow is heavily influenced by this album, even titling his first released cassette Metal Acoustic Music.
Noise-sculpting band Bailter Space referenced the album in the lyric, "Flying over Pacific Seas in a burning metal machine" in the song "Make", on their album Robot World.
David Bowie referenced the album in an article for Rolling Stone; the article listed Nine Inch Nails as one of music's "Immortals", and described in part a dream Bowie had about attending a birthday dinner for Lou Reed: "The music is a birthday surprise for Lou. Trent Reznor remixed this version of Metal Machine Music as a present."
TV on the Radio use extended samples of the album for the verses of "Let the Devil In" from their 2006 album Return to Cookie Mountain.
Metal Machine Music was presented at the Kunstlerhaus art center in Stuttgart as a sound installation in 1999, curated by the artist and then director, Fareed Armaly.
The German new music ensemble Zeitkratzer have played Metal Machine Music in concert, with Lou Reed as soloist, using traditional classical concert instruments from a score transcribed from the original recording. A CD was released in September 2007.
In 2002 Ulrich Maiss aka Cellectric premiered a solo cello version of Metal Machine Music entitled "CelloMachine". Lou Reed on CelloMachine (in an interview on CBC, October 2004): „[...] If you ever saw what Ulrich's doing you would, you know, open a fan club for him. [...] It’s like a rock approach to the cello - if you thought of the cello as a guitar with a feedback: off you go!"
A small part of the album is used in the anime Boogiepop Phantom.
The Killers song 'Tranquilize', released Oct 2007 and involving Lou Reed, begins in a manner very similar to a section of Metal Machine Music
Brian Eno wrote about the album in his 1995 diary: "His Metal machine music was released the same week - twenty years ago - as Discreet Music. Discreet Music soft, calm, melodic and reassuringly repetitive, without a single sound other than tape hiss about 1500 Hz, whereas MMM is as abrasive and unmelodic as possible, with almost nothing below - and yet they occupy two ends of what was at the time a pretty new axis - music as immersion, as sonic experience in which you float. The roots of Ambient"
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