Music is the soundtrack to our lives. And on Christmas Day 2012, four days after the world was supposed to end, GuysNation columnist Bryan Lienesch was given the book ’1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die’. As he flipped through it, an idea dawned on him right then and there: he would attempt to knock all 1,001 albums off his list. Not just before he dies, but as fast as life would allow.

This is the Bucket Beats List.

Nico (the blonde woman in center) was not a band member, but a mainstay nevertheless on this the band’s most iconic album. Photo courtesy Pictorial Press

Two years before The Rolling Stones’ ‘Let It Bleed’ capped off the decade in a shroud of societal pessimism, a band called The Velvet Underground released their debut album that did it even better.

The Velvet Underground was, in many ways, the brainchild of Andy Warhol. For proof of this, you need not look any further than the original art piece he created for the album cover. So when Warhol met Nico, a German singer, actress, and model, he forced an unnatural partnership that otherwise would not have happened.

Nico came on for her female vocals, a sweeter contrast to the raw, unpolished sound of the album, which therein lies the irony. Despite having a big name like Warhol managing them, the record was produced hastily with a budget more appropriate for the largely unknown band that they were.

Decades later, this unique style became iconic, otherworldly to critics. Rolling Stone put it #13 on their all-time album list, which is ironic because the magazine chose to ignore the record upon its initial release. And many others followed suit.

It was an abandoned gem,  a kind of hipster’s wet dream. The Velvet Underground And Nico is crude, unapologetic, and makes no disillusions about the underbelly of the American dream.

The track ‘There She Goes Again’ is the perfect example of this. Imagine a dark, sadistic version of Pretty Woman. That’s what the song is.

Though it’s not one of the classic “hits” of the album, it’s definitely one of my more favorite ones. Also up there on both its crudeness and kinship to my taste is ‘Heroine’, a bipolar, up-and-down high that alters reality as much as the drug itself.

There are times, however, when the record attempts to go over the top in trying to give you a migraine headache. Music snobs will probably crucify me for saying so, but the frantic thrashing of instruments the band seems to love so dearly made aspects of many of the recording unlistenable. In fact, the album’s finale piece, ‘European Son’, takes what was otherwise a pretty enjoyable record and leaves you begging for a merciful ending.

Some people might get it. I sure don’t.

The contrast in ‘European Son’ in so many ways is ‘Sunday Morning’. The album’s first track, it couldn’t be farther from the last one in sound as well as on the track listing. What ‘European Son’ and ‘Sunday Morning’ have in common, though, is my preference to just do without.

Don’t get me wrong, ‘Sunday Morning’, is perfectly gentle on the ears, but it’s not what the band and, more specifically, this first album of theirs was about. Had it come in between the head-splitting riffs of other tracks, it might be more welcoming.

Then there is what was Warhol’s favorite song on the record, ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’. Personally, I found it a lesser sister to MY favorite song on the album, ‘Venus In Furs’, but apparently swore by it meaning it’s definitely worth a listen-to.

Favorite Tracks?
3. Heroine
2. There She Goes Again
1. Venus In Furs

Least Favorite Tracks?
3. I’ll Be Your Mirror
2. Run Run Run
1. European Son

Do you really need to listen to this album before you die?
If you’re an Andy Warhol fan or self-proclaimed hipster, without a doubt. Otherwise, there’s definitely a few songs you should hear.

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When Bryan isn’t writing, he is on Twitter! Make sure to give him a follow @bclienesch!

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