Remember Lou Reed? The guy who fronted The Velvet Underground, debatably the most important rock group ever to exist (whatever, Beatles)? Well, he’s gotten pretty bad the last couple of decades. His most recent work, a collaboration with Metallica called Lulu, was a huge misstep (by both entities) that resulted in another fracture for his career. Hell, his last good album was from 1978.
Listening to Metal Machine Music, though, it’s easy to ignore everything I just said.
That’s because this album, like any good conceptual noise art, challenges the listener’s notion of what music really is.
Actually, don’t give Reed too much credit; the album was conceived as a joke, the result of Reed feeling trapped within his contract at RCA Records in 1975. The album is literally nothing but guitar feedback and Reed-mutilated modulations. Here’s an example of how any given point in the album sounds like:
The only thing rivaling the heavy atmosphere of the album was the volume of laughter by everyone in the record industry upon M3’s release.
Joke’s on them, though; the album is now considered one of the earliest examples of industrial music (never mind that fact Neu! and a bunch of other German and French composers were doing the same thing earlier on). M3 now stands as the album everyone loves to hate and begrudgingly admits is an important milestone in music.
Or if you’re not into musical philosophy, think of this album as a textbook example of how not to record an album.
Anyway, I think Reed was onto something here, even if that something was creating the aural equivalent of the final scene in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Highly recommended for people who hate having friends or who use words like lugubrious.