erasing clouds

The Silver Anniversary Release of Metal Machine Music: Music for the Mind of Florence Henderson

by Ian Kirkaldy

Twenty-five years have passed since Lou Reed palmed off his unexpected and individualistic aural detonation to an unsuspecting record label. This once double-disc album has now been compressed onto compact disc and re-released with the original liner notes and a new and nifty liner essay. The recording sessions occurred over the course of two weeks in Reed's Manhattan apartment during the summer of 1975. Hepped-up and alone, he was armed with two guitars, two huge amplifiers, and a four track recording machine. Initially recorded for fun and utterly detached from and devoid of any commercial merit, Reed took the tapes to his record label to fulfill a contractual obligation. In doing so he laid the foundation for what easily can be considered a benchmark album.

Metal Machine Music was and still is a sixty-four minute relentless and unforgiving onslaught of brutal feedback and distortion in a constant state of flux. The album is split into four segments. Musically there is no rhythm, no melody, no structure and "an avoidance of any type of atonality." Imagine if you will the sound of an overloaded adolescent guitar: prom drunk and abused, terrified and hysterically reeling around a live amplifier warehouse, then throw it all headfirst into a harvesting machine and you're halfway there. The composition is so thickly carpeted by layers of textured feedback and piercing guitar harmonics, and laced with deliberate speed and tone manipulation that a complete listen can hardly be called a rewarding experience. The addition of a locked groove at the end of side four theoretically allows the album to play forever, or until someone pulls the plug. The re-release includes about two minutes of this trickery, although it's highly unlikely you'll get so far. I personally prescribe random high volume noise bursts only, reminds one of a naked belly flop into the Arctic Ocean. Refreshing, no?

For a time Metal Machine Music stood as a reference point for how far the envelope could be pushed and foreshadowed what is now acceptable. It is still more relevant than seven-eighths of the music being created at this point in time. The recording, the release and the concept are simple enough: Reed was in a position to do it. He did it, because he could, all kudos to his oversized gonads. Metal Machine Music can be seen to represent the concentrated and undiluted embodiment of rock' n' roll, no watery experimental noodlings. It is a perfect example of free expression and it should be treated as such, you're probably not going to utilize it that often, but its good to have around - somewhat similar to the Bible.

"Anyone who gets to side four is dumber than I am." Lou Reed

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