Lou Reed: Metal Machine Music Album Review – Pitchfork

Reed has said he made Metal Machine Music for himself, and indulgence is baked into the concept. It’s the sound of electricity falling in love with itself, utterly relentless, a blast of energy that never lets up. On a casual listen, it seems static, like it’s only doing one thing. But the album constantly changes and is never the same from one second to the next. If you hear the music as placid, which is possible at lower volumes, it’s like a waterfall, endless particles of sound-matter crashing down and never landing in the same way twice. If you hear it as violent, which is also possible, it’s like an explosion that’s constantly at the moment of its concussive peak, one that never quite completes itself.

Um, okay. Sorry, I don’t buy that, and my musical tastes are extremely catholic. Even back when I listened to Throbbing Gristle, I couldn’t find any justification for Metal Machine Music. Yes, I owned it; I bought it used for a couple of bucks, and played the whole thing once. Critics can figure out a way to justify anything, but sometimes they need to say that a certain work is simply bad.

Source: Lou Reed: Metal Machine Music Album Review | Pitchfork

7 thoughts on “Lou Reed: Metal Machine Music Album Review – Pitchfork

  1. Although I respect your opinion Kirk, I don’t agree. I think it’s a brilliant album, a sonic sculpture. I had the chance to hear it played live by Lou Reed at the Sydney Opera House, as part of the Vivid Festival. This is one of my best music memories, it was hypnotic, beyond pitches, harmonies, a cathedral of sound.
    It’s not something you can listen to everyday, and it’s not meant to, it is nevertheless a music masterpiece of the 20th Century.

    • That wasn’t Metal Machine Music, but the Metal Machine Trio, which was Reed with two other musicians. If you read the article, you’ll see that it was essentially four sides of feedback. I would say the Metal Machine Trio stuff is slightly more interesting, but it still doesn’t grab me.

      • Yes but they played material from the record. I do have the album on DVD and know how it is. I still stand by my opinion, not everyone’s cup of tea but a very important album and one that I listen to with pleasure.

  2. John Cage came up with the idea first in the 1950’s with 4’33”, a totally silent three movement composition. Contemptuous of the audience, possibly. Brilliant in its concept, absolutely.

  3. MMM was nothing more than Reed’s middle finger to RCA when he wanted out of his contract to sign with Arista. People need to stop pretending that it was anything more. If you like it, fine, but any musical merit it has is accidental. Reed was a master at fooling / fucking over his audience when he wanted to, and MMM is the apotheosis of said ability.

    Fortunately, after Reed’s less-than-memorable sojourn at Arista, RCA took him back and he ended up making “The Blue Mask” and “Legendary Hearts”, probably the best music he had done since he left the Velvets; those two discs are as uncompromising as MMM, but in all the right ways instead of all the wrong ways.

    • The Blue Mask was a masterpiece (and I haven’t heard it in a long time, so thanks for reminding me). The only time I saw Lou Reed live was the year after that, at the Bottom Line in NYC, a very small club. It was a wonderful show.

      And there’s a film of it (of one of the shows from the run he did there):

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