In 1975, Lou Reed made the characteristically self-sabotaging decision to follow his highest-charting album ever with Metal Machine Music, four sides of nothing but feedback and noise. There was a method to Reed’s madness; it was created using carefully tuned and arranged guitars, effects, and studio editing, but to listeners it seemed like either a joke or Reed being pointedly difficult and openly hostile toward his audience.
Some who initially bought the record returned it to stores, thinking it was incorrectly manufactured. It was critically savaged; Rolling Stone said it sounded “like the tubular groaning of a galactic refrigerator” and it makes a lot of worst-albums-ever lists.
But the then-nascent punk movement picked up on it, and today it’s considered a forerunner of noise rock and industrial music. It’s still enormously difficult to listen to, but stands apart as a unique and prescient album from one of rock’s most groundbreaking, challenging artists.