Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

I'll Be Your Mirror: A Tribute to The Velvet Underground & Nico [Verve, 2021]
To be clear, the tributee here is the album dubbed The Velvet Underground & Nico, not the band-artiste combo of that name. So I spun said album for the first time since Lou Reed died--The Velvet Underground, Loaded, and the Matrix sessions all get more play around here--and was almost startled by how sere and crude that classic now sounded, and also by what a shitty producer Andy Warhol was even with Tom Wilson cleaning up after him. Still great, absolutely--dulled or not by the production, the band's "throbbing cadences" (Variety) and "atonal thrusts" (Richard Goldstein) rendered it one of the most momentous rock albums ever. So for younger admirers to render the same song sequence with meticulous clarity, toned chops, and unfettered interpretive elan can be disorienting, even annoying--if you never warmed to the sadie-maisie "Venus in Furs," you won't thank Andrew Bird for his avant violin, and though St. Vincent is too corn-averse to admit it, "All Tomorrow's Parties" was once a song. But there are also dynamite covers from Michael Stipe, Thurston Moore, Iggy Pop, and others. Sentimental favorite: Courtney Barnett's title tune. A-