Forty years deep, it's about impossible to gauge the challenge presented to audiences by a band like the Velvet Underground. With Modest Mouse platinum-certified, there's almost no arguing the Velvets' place in the bedrock foundation of contemporary guitar music. Its not much of a stretch to say that a band once declared (by Cher, notably) a viable alternative to suicide has largely blended with the “classic rock” it was thought to depart from.
Today, after a long nuclear winter of Lou Barlow, Daniel Johnston, and the Grifters, such onetime outsiderisms as lofi, drone, noise, improvisation, tapelooping, field recording, and antimusicianship have been integrated into major label marketing, and no longer cut the mustard as the battle cry of the outcast. I wake up each morning half-expecting to read that the Sunburned Hand Of The Man have soundtracked a makeout scene on the WB, or that Jessica Alba thinks Black Dice terrific. And isn't Adam Brody playing Angus Maclise in an upcoming film? Okay, he's not, but mark my words, that day isn't just coming, it's here.
So where am I going with this? Numbed by decades of a “transgressive” music arms race, it's tough to place the din made by someone like John Cale (a veteran of the Velvet Underground and Dream Syndicate) as a shock to a hip rock audience or even the music industry. So when, enjoying his early recordings as reading music, it was a surprising wake-up to hear some irate dude (a studio engineer?) storm into Cale's recording session, shouting, “Shut that off! I don't wanna hear that bullsh**! It just goes on and on and on.... You wanna do that stuff, do it far, far away in the country!” I could positively hug that man. I wish I had the CD's liner notes with me to see if there's more to the story, but alas, it's in storage. Anyway, interested parties can hear this wonderful disruption at the tail end of the below track, taken from Table of the Elements' Stainless Gamelan collection. Shake a tail feather....
John Cale - Big Apple Express