When we interviewed onetime Velvet Underground violist John Cale earlier this month, he said anytime he put on the group’s breakthrough LP of arty rock and noisy experimentalism, 1967′s The Velvet Underground & Nico, that the sound quality is “like listening through gauze.” What he doesn’t like about it — namely the lo-fi quality and brittle production — is exactly what many garage-rock bands love most about it and have tried to copy for the past four-and-a-half decades.
Enter the new tribute album The Velvet Underground & Nico by Castle Face & Friends, a label run by Thee Oh Sees‘ John Dwyer (for a more thorough introduction, read our handy beginners’ guide to the label). The compilation builds on that sound by playing up the original LP’s fuzzy, wild production on songs covered by Ty Segall, the Mallard and Thee Oh Sees, as well as Warm Soda‘s scratchy, rubbed-raw version of “I’m Waiting for the Man,” which you can listen to here. The Oakland group’s take turns the gritty, druggy original into a jangly power-pop song, complete with “aahhhs” and a new, Keith Richardsy guitar riff.
“We figured that to cover a song as iconic as ‘Waiting for the Man’ is a risky endeavor,” Warm Soda drummer Sam Lefebvre says. “A ‘faithful’ version would inevitably lack the warmth and feel of the original, so I consulted some of my other favorite versions of the tune. The Wasps, a late ’70s UK punk band, recorded a live version for a collection called Live at the Vortex, in which they abandoned the original feel entirely and we liked that approach.” After taking some nods from that version, Lefebvre’s bandmate Matt Melton wrote an original melody for the intro and outro. “If the original is an anxious junkies’ distraction to pass the time before picking up,” Lefebvre says, “ours is his blissful swan song before the final fix.” It may be lo-fi, but it also may be original enough that Cale would approve.
The Velvet Undergound & Nico by Castle Face & Friends is out October 30 on Universal/Castle Face. Stream & download Warm Soda’s “I’m Waiting for the Man” below: