There's no point at all in introducing the Velvet Underground -- really, the first edgy alt-rock band in the world doesn't need it. And "Loaded," while not the best album of their career, is a solid (if slightly passionless) example of Lou Reed and the Velvets rockin' out.
The sound is bright and chirrupy, despite the downbeat tone of the songwriting ("You're over the hill right now, and you're looking for love"), opening with an oxymoron -- bright music, and songwriting like "Who loves the sun/Who cares that it makes plants grow/Who cares what it does/Since you broke my heart."
With that strong track as a springboard, Reed and Co. launch into dreamy pop, country-rock and strong rock'n'roll (also the name of one song). Most of them are amazing, from the eerie reverb to the shattering riffs. However, "Loaded" suffers from a few too many country-ish rockers, including "Lonesome Cowboy Bill" which is the most annoying song that the Velvets ever produced.
The fact that "Loaded" has good songs at all is especially amazing when you consider that the band was cracking all around. Many major members -- John Cale, for one -- were gone, and the inspiration was waning. But they managed to compile a solid swan song, before fading off into rock legend land.
It's a solid effort. With the departure of Cale, Lou Reed was the main songwriter, and his talents are evident in most songs here, but he seems to have lost a certain tightness in his work -- some of the songs ramble a little. He doesn't push any boundaries or write anything terribly wrenching, but the songs are well-written.
Musically, Reed could not be faulted; he does some truly brilliant work near the beginning. Unfortunately Billy Yule, the brother of bassist Doug Yule, does only passable drumming. He's not bad, but he makes these songs sound rather generic. That only adds to the rather passionless, if pleasant, tone of the music.
"Loaded" would have been considered a very good album if it had not come after the genius of the Velvet Underground's past work. As it is, it is a weaker effort, but still worth hearing.