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White Light / White Heat

The Velvet Underground

White Light / White Heat

...incongruous and inventive
UNI238 (Universal Music Group)
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Tracks: Listen and Download

Track Time Listen
1
White Light/White Heat

White Light/White Heat

Composer Lou Reed
Band The Velvet Underground
02:48 Play
2
The Gift

The Gift

Composer Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, Maureen Ann Tucker
Band The Velvet Underground
08:20 Play
3
Lady Godiva's Operation

Lady Godiva's Operation

Composer Lou Reed
Band The Velvet Underground
04:57 Play
4
Here She Comes Now

Here She Comes Now

Composer Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, Maureen Ann Tucker
Band The Velvet Underground
02:05 Play
5
I Heard Her Call My Name

I Heard Her Call My Name

Composer Lou Reed
Band The Velvet Underground
04:38 Play
6
Sister Ray

Sister Ray

Composer Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, Maureen Ann Tucker
Band The Velvet Underground
17:32 Play
Total Running Time 40 minutes
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In the wake of the more restrained 'Velvet Underground and Nico', 'White Light/White Heat' must have been a perplexing record to hear upon its release in January 1968. Nearly half a century later we're still trying to figure it out.

This album is licensed for download from Universal Music Group.

Download includes - cover art

The album covers six songs in 40 minutes, and though it starts with its catchy title track, right away we know something is different on this album. The back and forth vocals seem to mix the cool of the first record with Reed's R&B fascination, yet the guitars crunch wildly, the keys strike like snakes, the cymbals crash like shattering glass. It's a perfect pop song couched in punk thrills, a kind of furious energy that borders on formless but never quite unravels. It sets up later moments on the record, but not all the same. We can draw lines to the guitar lunacy of 'I Heard Her Call My Name', but also to the faintly tense repetition of 'Here She Comes Now', or even the twanging of riffs and rumbling drums on 'Lady Godiva's Operation'.

These are the recognized tracks on the record, the more approachable moments wrapped around the difficult story-song 'The Gift' and the massive noise-jam of 'Sister Ray'. But it's these other moments that might better represent where the record broke from its predecessor, and how tensions within the band shaped this album. Reed and John Cale were struggling for control creatively, and Cale would leave soon after this record, but the competition inherent in the band makes them thrive here. The juxtaposition of Cale's sweet Welsh accent and gauzy singing to Reed's bleating sneer on 'Lady Godiva's Operation' is perfect. When Reed steps in halfway through the song to let us know that the nurse Cale is singing about is thinking "sweetly", it turns that word and the song in its ear, as the perfect hooks tumble into a harrowing mash-up of sounds. Reed twists the melodies in his mouth, spitting them out sideways, meshing Cale's avante-garde leanings with his own.

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