, is the fifth solostudio albumby American. It was originally released as a double album byRCA Recordsin 1975. A departure from the rest of Reeds catalog,is variously considered to be a joke, a grudging fulfillment of a contractual obligation, or an early example ofnoise music. The album features no songs or even recognizably structured compositions, eschewingmelodyandrhythmfor an hour of modulatedfeedbackand guitar effects, mixed at varying speeds by Reed. In the albumsliner noteshe claimed to have inventedheavy metaland asserted thatwas the ultimate conclusion of that genre.
The album cost Reed credibility in the music industry while simultaneously opening the door for some of his later, moreexperimentalmaterial. Althoughpanned by criticssince its release,Metal Machine Musicis today considered a forerunner ofindustrial musicnoise rock, and contemporarysound art.
In 2010, Reed,Ulrich KriegerandSarth Calhouncollaborated to tour, playingfree improvisationinspired by the album, asMetal Machine Trio. That same year, Reed announced his plans to re-releaseMetal Machine Musicin remastered form.
A major influence on Reeds recording was the mid-1960sdrone musicwork ofLa Monte YoungTheatre of Eternal Music,whose members includedJohn CaleTony ConradAngus MacliseandMarian Zazeela.Both Cale and Maclise were also members ofthe Velvet Underground(Maclise left before the group began recording).
The Theatre of Eternal Musics discordant sustained notes and loud amplification had influenced Cales subsequent contribution to the Velvet Underground in his use of both discordance and feedback. Recent releases of works by Cale and Conrad from the mid-sixties, such as CalesInside the Dream Syndicateseries (The Dream Syndicatebeing the alternative name given by Cale and Conrad to their collective work with Young) testify to the influence this important mid-sixties experimental work had on Reed ten years later.
In an interview with, Reed claimed that he had intentionally placed sonic allusions toclassicalworks such asBeethovensEroicaandPastoralSymphonies in the distortion, and that he had attempted to have the album released on RCAsRed Sealclassical label; it is not clear if he was being serious, although he repeated the latter claim in a 2007 interview.
On release, it was reviewed inRolling Stonemagazine as sounding like the tubular groaning of a galactic refrigerator and as displeasing to experience as a night in abus terminal.In the 1979Rolling Stone Record Guide, critic Billy Altman said it was a two-disc set consisting of nothing more than ear-wrecking electronic sludge, guaranteed to clear any room of humans in record time. (This aspect of the album is mentioned in theBruce Sterlingshort story Dori Bangs.) The first issue of the seminal New York zinePunkplaced Reed and the album on its inaugural 1976 issue, presaging the advent of both punk and the discordance of the New YorkNo Wavescene. To quote criticVictor Bockris, Reeds recording can be understood as the ultimate conceptual punk album and the progenitor of New York punk rock. The album was ranked number two in the 1991 bookThe Worst Rock n Roll Records of All Timeby Jimmy Guterman and Owen ODonnell.
Robert Christgaureferred toMetal Machine Musicas Reeds answer toEnvironmentsand said it had certainly raised consciousness in both the journalistic and business communities and was not totally unlistenable, though he admitted for white noise he would rather listen toSister Ray.Writing inMusicHound Rock(1999),Greg Kotgave the album a woof! rating (signifying dog-food), and opined: The spin cycle of a washing machine has more melodic variation than the electronic drone that wasMetal Machine Music.In 2005,Qmagazineincluded the album in a list of Ten Terrible Records by Great Artists, and it ranked number four inQs50 worst albums of all-time list. It was again featured inQin December 2010, on the magazines Top Ten Career Suicides list, where it came eighth overall. TheTrouser PressRecord Guidereferred to it as four sides of unlistenable oscillator noise, parenthetically calling that assessment a description, not a value judgment.Mark Demings review forAllMusicnoted that whilenoise rockgroups have created some sort of context for it,Metal Machine Musichasnt gotten any more user friendly with time, given it paus[ed] only for side breaks with no rhythms, melodies, or formal structures to buffer the onslaught.
Probably the most sympathetic appraisal ofMetal Machine Musicwas given by rock criticLester Bangs, who wrote that as classical music it adds nothing to a genre that may well be depleted. As rock n roll its interesting garage electronic rock n roll. As a statement its great, as a giant FUCK YOU it shows integritya sick, twisted, dunced-out, malevolent, perverted, psychopathic integrity, but integrity nevertheless. Bangs later wrote a tongue-in-cheek article onMetal Machine Musictitled The Greatest Album Ever Made, in which he judged it the greatest record ever made in the history of the human eardrum.In a December 2017 review, Mark Richardson ofPitchforkgaveMetal Machine Musica score of 8.7 out of 10. He describes the album as an exhilarating listen.
Despite the intensive criticism (or perhaps because of the exposure it generated),Metal Machine Musicreportedly sold 100,000 copies in the US, according to the liner notes of theBuddah RecordsCD issue. The original edition was withdrawn within three weeks of its release.
Lou Reed didnt performMetal Machine Musicon stage until March 2002, when he collaborated with an avant-garde classical ensemble at theMaerzMusik[de]festival in Berlin, Germany. The 10-member group Zeitkratzer performed the original album with Reed in a new arrangement featuring classical string, wind, piano, and accordion.A few years later, he formed a band namedMetal Machine Trioas a noise rock/experimental side project.
On the original vinyl release, timings for sides 13 were stated as 16:01, while the 4th side read 16:01 or, as the last groove on the LP was a continuous loop. On CD, this locked groove was imitated for the final 2:22 of the track, fading out at the end.
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