The absolute opposite of 1968’s White Light/White Heat and it’s manic and mangled pitch-black mess of driving rock, 1970’s Loaded finds The Velvet Underground delivering without question their brightest, sunniest, and most downright fun disc yet. One that, while sounding more like the work of chief songwriter Lou Reed than a full-band effort, nevertheless stands proudly alongside the Velvets’ other masterworks.
Loaded’s Lou Reed-Driven Sound
Which isn’t to say that lead-vocalist and guitarist Reed dominates the entire album and band (rounded out by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Doug Yule, guitarist Sterling Morrison, and drummer Maureen Tucker). Far from it, as all the band members’ contributions are just as present as they were on the chaotic full-band blow-out of White Light/White Heat (if not more so, thanks to the Loaded’s clean but not overly-glossy sound).
Rather, it’s that Reed’s driving songwriting has never been as focused and hook-laden as it is on Loaded, where the riffs drive with a plowing momentum, the guitar-leads soar and sway with a confident swagger, the bass rumbles along with a locomotive force, and the drums pound with more muscle and precision than ever before.
The Velvet Underground’s Diverse Pop-Rock Vibe
An exhilarating and intoxicating combination that leads to some of the band’s very finest and most outright catchy material as certainly is the case with the album’s opening one-two-three punch of “Who Loves The Sun,” “Sweet Jane,” and “Rock And Roll.” All of which soar and rock out with a tight focus and attention to detail unrivaled by the act’s earlier work (excellent though it all is).
But, and as has always been the case with the VU, rocking out is merely one item on the band’s agenda for the album’s diverse ten tracks and forty-minute running time. One that also includes deeply emotional, intimate, and at times evenly subtly humorous numbers like the touching “I Found A Reason” (complete with a spoken word love-letter of verse) and the subtly-epic brooders “New Age” and “Oh, Sweet Nothin’.”
Meanwhile, Reed and co. continues to find exciting variations on their rock and roll sound, as in the case of the Stones-esque vibe of the fun little shuffle “Cool It Down”, the roots-rock and country-leaning pop-rocker “Lonesome Cowboy Bill”, the galloping force of “Head Held High”, and the searing blues-rock of “Train Around The Bend”.
But above all else, what makes Loaded succeed as strongly as it does is the fact that, throughout every one of it’s pop-leaning and strong as ever tracks, the Velvet Underground never abandon the rock and roll sound and uncompromisingly adventurous spirit that made them so great, to begin with. If anything, the disc finds them stronger and more focused than ever before, making it all the more fitting as the VU’s swan song.