Sonic Reducer: Micro Reviews Of The Velvet Underground Box Set, Rock Or Bust And Big Music

August March
3 min read
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The 45th anniversary reissue of The Velvet Underground’s third, self-titled album serves as a reminder of the band’s proto-punk power amidst the hippie-dippy pop prominent in the last year of a decade known as the 1960s. But this six-disc, 65-track set also provides an opportunity to hear the Velvets during a transitional time. Absent the screeching experimentalism of John Cale and with the adroit addition of Doug Yule, it’s clear the band was beginning to move past their mythos and into the territory of true musical formidability. Songwriter Lou Reed is near the top of his heroin-addled game on tunes like “Candy Says” and “Pale Blue Eyes,” while limiting overt attempts to cross over into the land of the avant-garde (“The Murder Mystery”) in favor of a raw, unbound rocanrol sensibility that’s profound in its simplicity. The alternate mixes on this “Super Deluxe Edition” are interesting from a historical perspective but don’t really aid the listener who’s just beginning to see the light.

AC/DC Rock or Bust (Columbia)

AC/DC has made 15 albums of basic rock and roll music. None of them are masterpieces, but none of them totally suck either. The band has survived many tragedies (the death of Bon Scott, Malcolm Young’s dementia, Phil Rudd’s supposed murder for hire scheme, etc.) while producing more than a few radio-friendly classics, ranging from “Highway to Hell” to “Thunderstruck.” The band’s latest recording Rock or Bust continues the same formula, but it does so with a sense of accomplishment that defies both time and genre. Produced by Pearl Jam go-to guy Brendan O’Brien, Rock or Bust has a cleaner, crisper bent than previous efforts, yet it remains practically similar to any album in the AC/DC catalog. Numbers like “Rock the House” and “Dogs of War” may sound like they were recorded 30 years ago, but there’s an honesty in their execution that makes them legit. Let there be rock, indeed.

Simple Minds Big Music (Sony Music)

When I was growing up—in fact until rather recently—I always got Simple Minds and Tears for Fears confused. When I could remember the name of one, I could not recall the name of the other. I’d hear “Don’t You Forget About Me” on the radio and think to myself, “What the hell is the name of that band?” Only when I started comparing Tears for Fears (The Seeds of Love) to something or other by The Beatles (“Dear Prudence”) did I begin to learn how to tell the difference. Anyway Simple Minds has a new album out called Big Music. It’s pretty decent inasmuch as it doesn’t refer heavily to the past, preferring to look forward to the future. Songs such as “Broken Glass Park” and “Honest Town” show that the band is still alive and kicking … but not quite as good as another ’80s band whose name I can’t recall at the moment.

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