Lou Reed

Metal Machine Music (Buddha Original Masters Series)

4. Inclusion of "Hardware Specifications" and Reed's original liner notes: Which material constitutes a whole 'nother thing of beauty, completely absent from the import disc. Scatterbrained, dithyrambic, tension-fueled, and in large sections completely incomprehensible, the BOMS-MMM presents these important drug-era documents intact, in their original form.

The extensive hardware specs on the back cover ("Marantz Amps/Altec Voice of America Monitor Speakers/Sennheiser Headphones") are completely bogus -- to create MMM, Reed set up two guitars and two amplifiers, let everything feed back and recorded it on four-track -- and occasionally they're nothing more than an in-joke warning concerning the album's contents ("Drone cognizance and harmonic possibilities vis a vis Lamont [sic] Young's Dream Music/Rock orientation, melodically disguised, i.e. drag"). But Reed's woozy liner notes, complete with random punctuation and capitalizations and borne along on wings of vicious egotism, are the real joy: "This record is not for parties/dancing/background, romance [sic]. . . . No one I know has listened to it all the way through including myself. . . . Most of you won't like this, and I don't blame you at all. It's not meant for you. At the very least I made it so that I had something to listen to. Certainly Misunderstood: Power to Consume (how Bathetic). . . . For that matter, off the record, I love and adore it. I'm sorry, but not especially, if it turns you off. . . . I'd harbored hope that the intelligence that once inhabited novels or films would ingest [sic, again] rock. I was, perhaps, wrong. This is the reason Sally Can't Dance [sic, a third time] -- your Rock n Roll Animal. More than a decent try, but hard for us to do badly. Wrong media. . . . My week beats your year." See? And like that. It's been years, actual years since Reed's shown this much personality. Don't it take you back?

5. David Fricke's essay: God love David Fricke, the People's Rock Critic. Neither as erudite as Greil Marcus nor as esoteric as Richard Meltzer, and nowhere near as snooty as Robert Christgau, Fricke here plays devil's advocate and presents a studied 12-page reevaluation of MMM on the occasion of its quarter-century mark, proceeding from the assumption that the album (1) exists precisely and exactly as Reed intended it, (2) was conceived not as a mean-spirited "fuck you," but as a valid artistic project, and (3) predicted punk, post-punk, hip-hop, electronica, industrial rock, techno, and avant-garde metal. Who knows what kind of Faustian deal he had to strike in order to land this gig, but his soapbox allows (forces?) Fricke to pen such judgments as "MMM makes more sense with each passing pop-music era"; ". . . folded into MMM's elephantine bellow was rich historical precedent"; "To truly love MMM, you have to learn to laugh with it"; and my favorite, "MMM was not a new kind of rock; it was every kind of rock, boiled down to its molten essence." Did you know that? Of course you didn't.

Louie, Louie: You can stop holding your breath, kids. Metal Machine Music is here.
Louie, Louie: You can stop holding your breath, kids. Metal Machine Music is here.

6. Digital remastering: Hee, hee -- It's right there in the production notes -- ha, ha -- "Digitally Remastered by Bob Ludwig" -- hoo, hoo . . . mff . . . snrk -- BWAH-HA-HA-Ha-Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! Oh . . . oh, God, I'm sorry . . . (sniff, choke) . . . How awful. How absolutely cynical. Hang on, gimme a second . . . (pant, pant, gasp) Whew. Okay. I'm fine.

7. It's louder: Which is the kicker. I had a friend once who replaced his scratchy vinyl copy of Never Mind the Bollocks with the CD version, but only after fretting about it for a while, wondering whether he could justify wanting the sonic fidelity of that particular medium for that particular release. But trust me when I tell you that MMM is an album you want to own in the loudest version possible, or owning it simply doesn't make any damn sense. On this score, the inferior German import version is to the BOMS-MMM as hesitation cuts are to full-bore wrist-slashes.

Trust me. I just had a nice lady from a market research firm call me as I was writing this. She wanted to ask me about my musical preferences, and I just held the phone up to the speakers. Put it back to my head after 10 seconds. Dead line. True story.

Talk about consumer advocacy: I'm going to keep the disc cued up to track four, at 13 minutes and 23 seconds, for when the credit-card people call.

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