This Sucks!…(Don’t) Try This: Lou Reed, “Metal Machine Music”

Written by Earmageddon, Music

First things first: Happy Birthday to Jefito! Jeff is, as you know, my gay somewhat heterosexual musical lifemate. He inspired this site, he designed this site, and he writes the entries for me serves as my creative consultant. And what better way to celebrate the day of his birth than to highlight what a jerk he is?

A number of months ago, Jeff started playing a game with me. While I fully admit to starting this “game,” I didn’t do it with bad intentions – and now I’m being punished for it.

Back in the Fall, Jeff had mentioned to me that Stephen Thomas Erlewine of All Music Guide has given Paris Hilton’s debut (and hopefully only) CD 4.5 stars. Jeff couldn’t believe it. In truth, neither could I. However, I had heard “Stars Are Blind” at the gym, and didn’t hate it, so I downloaded the album and sent it on to Jeff to see what he thought. What I didn’t know at the time was:

1) Jeff didn’t like Paris Hilton.
2) Jeff didn’t want to listen to Paris Hilton.
3) By sending the album, Jeff felt he was forced (forced!) to listen to Paris Hilton.

I agree with Jeff that if people send you music, you should do everything in your power to listen to it. I do, indeed, listen to just about everything that comes my way. However, I don’t force myself to do it immediately because I simply don’t have enough hours in the day to listen to everything in my queue, and I know I’ll get to it eventually. I think the reason Jeff doesn’t understand this is because he’s a housewife.

Anyway, so Jeff listened to the whole album – I didn’t even listen to the whole album – got another great post out of it, and promptly informed me that he was going to “repay” me.

And thus the game began. That was when Jeff sent me Only In America, Volume 2, which I posted – twice! – and most of you rightfully ignored.

Not long after, Jeff apologized to me. “I just finished listening to most of “Only in America Volume 2,” he said. “In terms of musical retribution, it may have been overkill.”

So when I recently sent him Andrew Ridgeley’s Son Of Albert CD – a response to merciless ribbing – you’d think he would have kept the above apology in mind.

But he didn’t. As you may have read over at his site, he retaliated by sending me Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music.

I hesitantly opened up the Amazon packaging. “Aw, Lou Reed?” I thought. “Damn him!” Of course, this was just based on me thinking this was Lou Reed in general. I had no idea what Metal Machine Music was all about.

Plenty has been said about Metal Machine Music. I don’t need to regurgitate it here (after all, that’s what my usual posts are for!). Here are a few choice excerpts from the Wiki:

Metal Machine Music is generally considered to be either a joke, a begrudging fulfillment of a contractual obligation, or an early example of noise music. Reed has since contradicted popular sentiment, stating that “I was serious about it. I was also really, really stoned.” However, as the last sentence in Reed’s liner notes to the recording would suggest, some motivation to release Metal Machine Music came as a reaction to restricting contractual obligations from RCA at the time; the sentence, “My week beats your year.” Lou Reed claimed in the liner notes to have invented heavy metal music, and that this album was the ultimate conclusion for that genre.

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.

I read all of this and thought, “how bad could it be?”

Lou Reed – Metal Machine Music, Part I (don’t download)

I’m serious. Don’t download it unless you are prepared. Because I wasn’t prepared. I waited until everyone left the office for the day. Then, I put on Track 1. All sixteen minutes and ten seconds of it.

In Jeff’s post on Andrew Ridgeley, he listened to the music and intelligently discussed its shortcomings from both musical and lyrical points of view. I can’t do the same for Metal Machine Music. I don’t think I’m qualified to do so. Instead, I decided to go with my gut and just respond instinctually to the noises coming through my speakers. Wouldn’t Lou Reed approve of my impulsiveness? Don’t think, just emote.

I did this in a few different phases. I tried not to subject casual readers to the entire thing in one long post, but for some reason, my “more after the jump” button isn’t working. So too bad, folks, for Jeff’s birthday, you’re going to have to suck it up and read it all below.

For starters, I listened to the track at work. I quickly typed out all my thoughts as I was listening to track #1. Then, once my teeth stopped hurting, I popped three Advil and left for the day.

A few days later, I figured I’d let some friends listen to the track and videotape their responses. This backfired on me; one buddy said it “sucked” but was uncomfortable with being filmed, so I wasn’t getting the appropriate looks of horror that I would have gotten had I not been holding a camera. My brother was the other subject, and his response was “I have tons of full albums that sound like this!”

In the second stage, I came home, put on my headphones, cued up track #1, and set up my MacBook Pro to randomly take photos of me every few seconds. Being a natural ham, I hid the camera window so I couldn’t see how or when it was taking photos of me, and tried to forget the camera was there. (Note “tried.” I’m still a ham.) It took about 60 photos; I picked out the best (or worst) of the bunch.

In both cases – writing and photo-taking – I went through Kubler-Ross’ Five Stages Of Grief:

Denial (“I’m not really going to listen to this whole thing; this is ridiculous!”)
Anger (“What the fuck is wrong with someone that would send another person this album?”)
Bargaining (“I’ll never send him anything again, so long as I don’t have to finish this album.”)
Depression
(“I hate myself for listening to Lou Reed.”)
Acceptance (“I have yet to reach this stage.”)

So enough talk. Here are the two phases. For better or for worse.

Phase 1: Live-Blogging “Metal Machine Music, Part I.”

This isn’t so bad…
wow, that feedback is a little annoying. hope that goes away.
it’s not going away.
This is hurting my ears.
how many more minutes of this?
SIXTY-FOUR MINUTES?
oh jesus christ.

I’m only 2:43 in. Oh my god.
This is a reissue? How can you tell?

(two minutes later)
It’s not stopping.

5:25: I almost heard a note!

Oh god, make it stop.
Please.
It’s so hissy.
I’m not even halfway through the first track.

Seven minutes left in track 1, and then I have to turn this off. IT HURTS. IT HURTS MY HEAD.

Sadly, though, this is like my favorite Lou Reed song.

Five minutes left. I can do this. I can do this!

I can’t do this.

I really thought I’d be able to listen to the whole thing.

Is that a girl screaming?

Or a cat?

I think I hear a guitar chord.

Oh wait, no, it’s just more feedback.

Oh my god. My stomach hurts.

I’m literally pulling my hair, begging it to stop.

2:30 left.

I think my lower teeth just began to ache.

58 seconds left, the longest 58 seconds of my mother fucking life.

Is my face melting?

oh god, it’s done. Oh, thank god it’s done!


Phase 2: Live Photos During “Metal Machine Music, Part I”

This file is a little sloppy, but you’ll get the point. This is also a good video to watch if you only want to hear the first 1:45 of “Metal Machine Music, Part I.”

[youtube]npYei_BM38Y[/youtube]

Anyway, the moral of the story is that Jeff is a bad person, and even though he tries to fool all of you into thinking he’s a thoughtful journalist with a soft spot for bad Bee Gees songs, he’s really got a mean streak that makes mine look like a mere outburst from The Tigger Movie. But of course, the game didn’t end here: I retaliated by sending Jeff a copy of The Glory (????) Of The Human Voice by Florence Foster Jenkins. I picked it after I saw a review entitled “Florence’s voice caused my dog to shake in fear.” And so…the game continues.