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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.
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Metal Machine Music: *The Amine β Ring, better known as simply 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.

Released on the heels of the slick, popular Sally Can't Dance, nobody quite knew what to make of this record at the time. 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, "I was completely serious. I was also completely stoned."

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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 on, 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.


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Tracklist:

LP One

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

Side Two

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

LP Two

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

Side Four

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

CD releases are on a single disc


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. The spotlight effect from the backlighting on the cover pic also makes it look like it might be a Live Album.
  • 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.
  • Gratuitous Panning: The "music" consists of two separate strands of noise running simultaneously, panned hard to the left and right channels, with no center.
  • 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.
  • Minimalism: If you want to be generous and say Reed was doing this album as a completely serious work, it fits into this category, since it consists of an hour of noise. Via his longtime collaborator John Cale, Reed had an arm's length connection to serious Avant-garde Music figures like La Monte Young, Terry Riley and Tony Conrad, and you can call Metal Machine Music an attempt to take their approach to music Up to Eleven. Reed even gives Young a Shout-Out in the liner notes. Conrad's notorious 1965 short film The Flicker (which is just all-white and all-black film frames silently alternating for a half-hour) was also reportedly an influence.
  • 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. However, at least one critic at the time, Lester Bangs, praised the album, touting it in a series of not-completely-serious Creem magazine essays.
    Lester Bangs: If you ever thought feedback was the best thing that ever happened to the guitar, well, Lou just got rid of the guitars.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: A rather monotonous drone at that, though it does change keys (for lack of a better term) over the course of the album.
  • Title Track: "Metal Machine Music".

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