Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Metal Machine Music by Lou Reed

I give it five stars. "Metal Machine Music" is a record composed completely of guitars on feedback, that are also reverbed, altered, and the layered one on top of the other through recording techniques. There's no conventional melody, there's no conventional structure, no songs, no lyrics. It's pointed to as an early noise rock record. I was interested in it because I had read one well known music critic whose name I can't remember at the moment say that it was one of the few records that he couldn't listen to. Cool. To me that's a signal that I should track the thing down and listen to it myself.

The record is complex, not just noise, not really as atonal as the reviewers make it out to be. Like they say in the liner notes, this record draws on modern classical music, which goes in a sort of noisy direction, for inspiration, meaning that it's not just random feedback. It's good feedback, feedback with a point to it. You could say the same thing about a lot of records, and bands, that are noise oriented. As for where the quality of the noise, in terms of interest and in terms of some of the things it's trying to communicate, is located, it tops the scales.

Not as noisy or atonal as it's made out to be. The harshest, most atonal, music that I've ever heard is by Schoenberg, specifically his piano compositions, which is not all that surprising since he was the originator of atonal and then serialist music, the latter of which is a kind of systemization of atonality. That stuff is truly hard to listen to. I can appreciate it, but I don't listen to it for enjoyment's sake. "Metal Machine Music" on the other hand sounds like something that's interesting not just for arts sake but for the pleasure of listening to it as well.

But then I like Sonic Youth, noise rock in general, and Industrial Music, so my tastes may not be the same as everyone else's. I like Einsturzende Neubauten, Throbbing Gristle, and the whole genre. Even found and listened to Glenn Branca, from which Sonic Youth partially came, a guy whose compositions are very interesting, based on microtonality. Microtonality is breaking up the scale into very small units, like the name implies, so that you have things like quarter flats and sharps. I need to find more Glenn Branca, but there are so many things that are interesting out there. I used to have his CD "The Mysteries", which was a symphony in two parts for guitars divided up into "Life" and "Death". That's another thing...I know I'm rambling but bear with me....he has like fifty guitars tuned to alternate tunings very precisely perform his music. One guitar could have all the strings tuned to 'E', another could have all the strings tuned to a few parts of a tone above 'E', or have some exotic mix of tones where half was an 'E' in one octave and the other half of the strings was an 'E' in the next octave up.

Very interesting stuff. Was part of a short lived band called the "Theoretical Girls". I used to have a CD by them but it's disappeared. Now "Theoretical Girls" are one of those bands that have a unique place that I should track down one of these days, like "Birthday Party", which was Nick Cave's band before he founded "Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds".

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