"Their publicity, which ran to phrases like ‘a total bombardment of the senses,’ suggested that the Velvets were yet another psychedelic band—and in a way they were, But their brand of sensory bombardment could not have been more at odds with the era of good feeling. Their terrain was the city at its hardest and sleaziest. Their music was as painful as it was compelling, assaulting the ear with excruciating distortion and chaotic noise barely contained by the repetitive rhythms of rock and roll. Their themes were perversity, desperation, and death. Instead of celebrating psychedelic trips, they showed us the devastating power, horror, and false transcendence of heroin addiction; they dared to intimate that sadomasochism might have more to do with their—and our—reality than universal love. Musically as well as verbally, they insisted that the possibility, far from being limitless, was continually being stifled and foreclosed. At a time when hippie rock musicians were infatuated with the spontaneous jam, the Velvets music was cerebral, stylized. They maintained a poignant ironic tension between the tight, formal structure of the songs and their bursts of raw noise, between their high artfullness and their street-level content, between fatalism and rebellion."
Ellen Willis, Out of the Vinyl Deeps