The dissonance was cool. And S&M stuff is always fun. But just as crucial to the brilliance of the Velvet Underground was their near-complete absence of irony, both musical and lyrical. The Detroit-based band Slumber Party offers the tantalizing prospect of an all-girl Velvets, and for the most part they get it right.
Okay. That felt good. You have to get the Velvet Underground references off your chest when you talk about Slumber Party, because you know they’ll inevitably appear anyway. It’s like chicken pox — best to get it out of the way early on so you won’t have to deal with it when you’re in your teens and have to walk around with sores all over your face that itch and crust and scar and force you to live in hermetic solitude for three weeks. So yeah. The Velvet Underground’s recorded output, particularly albums one and three, are clearly the foundation upon which the Slumber Party’s music is built. There’s droning, there’s that moderate rock tempo, there’s the occasional sweet acoustic guitar tune, there’s some studio experimentation. Aliccia Berg’s voice is even kind of Nico-ish.
But of course Lou didn’t actually hang out with the Slumbers and write the songs for them. So what are they about? Well, love. Really real non-ironic true love. “As the years go by / While we live our lives together forever,” goes the chorus to “Drunk.” “Black Heart Road” is about missing an absent lover: “When you are far away, baby / I miss you so, when you are far away.”
While such lyrics look vapid and dull when written out (sorry about that, ladies), they are incredibly fetching when sung. Slumber Party may be one of the most gosh-darned likeable bands I’ve ever heard; and unlike most all-girl rock bands in 2003, they aren’t sexually aggressive at all. I sincerely hope their likeability isn’t due exclusively to their non-threatening sexual politics, but I’m not ruling it out.
3 is one of those classic really good albums that you pull out once in a while, spend some time with, and shelve it for months without giving it a passing thought until the next time you feel the urge to play it. It’s pretty damn solid, is what I’m saying. It’s not perfect, of course, but it’s not like the Velvets ever made a perfect album, either.