THE VELVET UNDERGROUND – New Age (from Loaded, 1970)
It was Mark E. Smith, of course it was, who came up with the ultimate indie rock snob put-down: “He couldn’t tell Lou Reed from Doug Yule. Confession time: I was that clueless indie boy. Back when I first heard Loaded I had no idea of the VU’s absurd history, I only knew that they were some kind of important rock thing and I should best get my head round them as soon as possible. Deep in my heart I didn’t like any of it much, and Loaded became my favourite album pretty quickly. As Yule writes in his article on the making of the album, “Every song was looked at with the understanding that there was a need to produce some kind of mainstream hit.”, and it showed: Loaded still sounds like a sweetened, edgeless singer-songwriter album.

But I didn’t realise then that there were two singer-songwriters at work, and you were only meant to like one of them. Some of Doug Yule’s prettily anaesthetic tunes were some of my favourites, after all, the dazed “Oh, Sweet Nuthin'” and “New Age”, a wide-eyed mock-epic which seemed beautiful to me when I was 14. Now? Well, now I can reluctantly concede that Yule’s critics had a point – it’s a cloying track, though still a little better than the several Reed-penned knock-offs that clog the record (“Train Round The Bend” et al.). In fact its gospelly builds and stylings and big soft rock fade-out sound queasily familiar in our giltless age of Richard Ashcroft solo records, and coming to the end of this review-purposes listen I’ve decided I never want to hear it again.

That makes me rather upset – my memories of Loaded were good ones, my untutored, out-of-context schoolboy listening memories, sitting round in massive threadbare armchairs with “Sweet Jane” on the stereo because it was the only record my friend and I had which the rockin’ seniors would let us play. I didn’t want to know about Lou and Doug, didn’t want to know about how the one with the banana and that frightful German woman was the Best One, didn’t want to know about Squeeze for God’s sake. And now I’m 27 and I know all of that crap and where does it get me? It gets me to buy a dear old record which I’ve not heard for years and hate it.