Traitor albums! My cousin told me that Led Zeppelin’s Coda album was not to be listened to because it was “a traitor album” – he surely meant a posthumous album; they existed before Coda, there have been thousands since. But I liked his attempt at purity. Is the faithful fan the one that stops at the official studio albums? Are we a better/bigger fan if we go through all the bootlegs, digging for the unofficial things too? All that matters is the music. And you get to choose your own stops and starts right? If you only listen to the Greatest Hits but you know that inside and out you might be a bigger fan – on some level of involvement – than the collector that wants multiple copies for pin-up opportunities.
All of this is a garbled intro that speaks, kinda, to my interest in “The fifth album” by The Velvet Underground.
Because it’s very much a “Traitor album”. It’s not really the fifth album by The Velvet Underground…it’s really the first album by Doug Yule. And I reckon it deserves to be reissued as that, re-released with Yule’s name on the banner (Deep Purple’s drummer Ian Paice is uncredited as the tub-thumper; Mo Tucker was still playing some shows with this ‘fake’ version of a Lou Reed-less VU, but she’s not here on this record).
So I was very excited to get to this album – because growing up as a VU and Lou Reed fan I only ever heard talk of this record. I never saw it. And I never heard it until a few years ago…
I found it on CD for $2.99 – at a time when I never really buy CDs anymore. But I had to have it. And it was instantly fun to hear – and Doug Yule was there, all over every track. His voice, his playing, his writing and there are hammy Beach Boys-styled lyrics and there are proto-Strokes guitar whips and licks. And it has a jaunty set of angular riffs. And I was genuinely excited. And I do like it. A lot.
But it is a traitor album. And it is fucking silly.
Does that matter?
Not a jot. Not really.
It suffers – and always will – for Yule taking on the band’s name, or being forced to (obviously he on his own was a nobody and the ‘new’ version of the band was tasked with touring Europe and playing bar-band versions of the old hits and needed a few new things to plug alongside…)
But if you can park all of that you can find some fun. I love Yule’s voice. I love his playing. The songs don’t stand up over multiple listens – they’re as lightweight as pop-rock’s worst. But I still hear this as some sort of early version of what The Strokes ended up doing. Well, that’s on a good day listening to this.
On a bad day it’s an utter load of lazy-af kack.
But I love that.
I wanted to hail this as some sort of “lost classic”. But maybe it really is a Traitor Album. Hey, fair enough. I’m in this for the music. And I’m glad I got to hear and have this record.
(I just make sure it sits nowhere near the “Four Albums” by “The” Velvet Underground).