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Music / Metal Machine Music

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"Most of you won’t like this, and I don’t blame you at all. It’s not meant for you."
—Liner notes for Metal Machine Music.

Metal Machine Music is the fifth studio album by Lou Reed, released in 1975. It is a... rather notorious album. Despite its infamy, the amount of people who actually listened to it, left alone from beginning to end, is practically nil. Why? Well, this double album features over an hour of nothing but modulated guitar feedback and other effects.

Back then, nobody quite knew what to make of this record. Was this meant to be taken seriously? A joke? A deliberate attempt to commit commercial suicide? A raised middle finger to the audience? Against the critics? Or Lou's record company for having to fulfill his contractual obligation to release a new album? Or a masterpiece? All Mr. Reed had to say about it was that "I was completely serious. I was also completely stoned".

Whatever it was, it sure as hell wasn't a success. It bombed completely, got atrocious reviews and a lot of buyers brought their copy of the album back to the store. It's generally seen as his worst record.


Despite all that, Metal Machine Music did manage to sell over 100.000 copies and Reed himself earned some respect for having the audacity to release such an anti-commercial album. Later the record was even Vindicated by History as a progenitor to the genres of industrial, noise rock, and drone. In 2002 Reed performed the album live in collaboration with the avant-garde classical ensemble Zeitkratzer and formed a band named the Metal Machine Trio as a Noise Rock project. Whether you like it or not: it's surely a New Sound Album unlike any other and it has to be heard to be believed.



Side One

  1. "Metal Machine Music, Part 1" (16:10)

Side Two

  1. "Metal Machine Music, Part 2" (15:53)

Side Three

  1. "Metal Machine Music, Part 3" (16:13)

Side Four

  1. "Metal Machine Music, Part 4" (15:55)

Metal Machine Tropes:

  • Album Filler: To most of the audience this entire album constitutes of filler. Just one continuous drone full of screeching sounds that nobody on Earth would listen to for fun or relaxing.
  • Alliterative Title: "Metal Machine Music".
  • Avant Garde Music: The most avant-garde record Reed ever released and that is saying something!
  • Content Warnings: The somewhat erratic liner notes for Metal Machine Music end with them.
    As way of disclaimer, I am forced to say that, due to stimulation of various centres (remember OOOHHHMMM, etc.), the possible negative contraindications must be pointed out. A record has to, of all things. Anyway, hyper-tense people, etc., possibility of epilepsy (petite mal) psychic motor disorder etc., etc., etc. My week beats your year. - Lou Reed
  • Cool Shades: Reed wears them on the album cover.
  • Covers Always Lie: When you see Reed in his Cool Shades and black vest on the cover you'd expect this album to be a heavy rock record where he at least does some singing.
  • Epic Rocking: All four sides of the original LP are one long continuous noise.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: It is indeed "metal machine music", though whether it's interesting or awful is a matter of opinion.
  • Face on the Cover: Reed in his characteristic shades and leather jacket, striking a cool pose.
  • Harsh Noise: All the way through.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Reed wears a leather jacket on the album cover.
  • Industrial: An early forerunner of the genre.
  • Instrumental: All tracks are instrumental.
  • Last Note Nightmare: The entire album could count as one, but there's also a more literal example of this trope. On the original LP the last groove was a continuous loop, causing the irritating noise to keep going, unless you went to the record player and took the needle off the record.
  • Leave the Camera Running: To the point contemporary reviews make sure to notice that the main problem with the album is that not only it runs an unpleasant drone, but it keeps on and on until the side breaks.
  • Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Technically, this album has the dubious honor of being the only 70's album to earn an 11.
  • New Sound Album: The album is certainly unprecedented in both Lou's catalogue and the music world. It was the Trope Codifier for Noise Rock and Industrial.
  • Noise Rock: The first album of its kind.
  • Non-Appearing Title: Since this is an instrumental album the title doesn't appear on any of the tracks.
  • Refuge in Audacity:
    • Let's get the facts straight: Reed released a completely instrumental double album full of unlistenable, ear piercing oscillator noise.
    • He also claimed that the album had sonic allusions to two of Ludwig van Beethoven's symphonies (Eroica and Pastoral), and that he tried to get RCA Records to release it on their Classical Music label, Red Seal.
  • Sensory Abuse: It's a veritable endurance test for your ears and patience.
  • Springtime for Hitler: If it was Reed's intention to bomb commercially it went exactly according to plan. However it did manage to sell 100,000 copies and gain an audience for a live performance in 2002 in Berlin.
  • Take That, Critics!: It has been interpreted as a way to force critics to listen to four record sides of incomprehensible noise.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: A rather monotonous drone at that.
  • Title Track: "Metal Machine Music".


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