Let the record show that The Velvet Underground & Nico was the best Velvet Underground record of the 1990s. The entire decade was mapped out there. It opens with a faux-naïve avant-pop breakthrough ("Sunday Morning") as its "Smells Like Teen Spirit"; and closes with a repetition-into-soup hammer party ("European Son") as its "Rockafeller Skank." The guitar-based tunelessness born on that album was a badge of honor if you were Calvin, or a weapon if you were Thurston, or a plaything if you were Kurdt. And dopesick, leather-licking, plain-brown-wrapper lyrics were the perfect transgression for a decade that gave us Marilyn Manson, The Chronic, and Butt Trumpet.
However, recorded just ten short months later, White Light/White Heat rocketed the band 20 years forward into the future. That record is ultimately an amorphous, bubbling suite of ping-ponging drugnoize and wobbling, crusted-over feedback with, remarkably, an infectious bubblegum-pop record spiraling away out of its center: a dynamic that formed the blueprint for texture-centric noise-pop bands like Animal Collective and Deerhunter and Fuck Buttons. WL/WH's got rhythm and muscle, so it's not too hard to draw a straight line from the churning proto-kraut on display straight through Public Image Limited into LCD Soundsystem and beyond — "Drunk Girls" is "Lady Godiva's Operation" +32 bpm. And everyone from Embryonic-era Flaming Lips to the Isis/Boris axis of post-metal to Shjiploads of psych-rock drugonauts have been riding "Sister Ray"'s ding-dong for years. Hell, even those aspiring hipsters Metallica know enough to cover "White Light/White Heat." All tomorrow's parties are now yesterday's, hear this call your name. C.W.