Released in 1968, the second Velvet Underground album and the last with violist John Cale, White Light/White Heat starkly contrasted the band's debut in its no-holds-barred, attacking approach. Whereas The Velvet Underground & Nico was full of beauty, aided by the addition of the German singer Nico, White Light/White Heat was dark, aggressive and daring, more so than any other Velvet Underground material at that time, and perhaps of any time in their short existence. Drag queens, orgies, drug use, fellatio, it was all present in Lou Reed's scorching poetry, as he lifted the lid once more on the underbelly of New York City in the late '60s. Last year, White Light/White Heat reached its 45th birthday, and remains one of the greatest, most groundbreaking rock LPs ever crafted. To celebrate, it was reissued in all its glory, hopefully opening up the legendary group to more new disciples.

White Light/White Heat essentially gave birth to New York punk, thanks to songs like 'Sister Ray', the epic seventeen-minute closing jam built up around three brutal chords and painted with Reed's graphic sexual storytelling. Many people say that The Sex Pistols or The Ramones created punk, but I disagree, and hold the Velvets and The Stooges personally responsible. At the time, nothing was coming out of New York or anywhere else in the world like the guttural, feedback-drenched noise that the Velvets were making. It was as if they accidentally laid down the foundations of punk rock, which must have caught a lot of people off guard back in the day, people who only had The Velvet Underground & Nico to compare the band's visceral new sound to. It was the sound of Lou and co. saying goodbye to Nico, and hello to the feeling of ultimate freedom and the space to do whatever the fuck they wanted.

The initially fruitful relationship between Andy Warhol and the band had eventually soured, and Warhol was sacked as their manager after the tepid reception of their first LP. Their debut was far from a success, despite having moments of commercial potential, and it wore them down. The Velvet Underground were just too weird and ahead of their time, and were only appreciated by switched-on music fans who saw them for what they were: pioneers and future legends. The band ditched their poppier sound and aimed for the bowels of hell, which they found in a matter of days by playing their live set in the studio and hitting record. Everything was in the red, much like the landmark Stooges album Raw Power. In doing this, they captured a warts and all, raw as you like session which would receive minimal treatment from Tom Wilson in order to retain that blistering rock & roll edge and present the world with the Velvet Underground at their most primal. Apparently even Wilson gave up and walked out of the room when he heard the chaos from inside the recording studio. He left the band to it and told them to shout him when they'd finished. The multi-instrumentalist, classically trained John Cale, who founded the band and helped to craft their unique magic, described White Light/White Heat as "a very rabid record... The first one had some gentility, some beauty. The second one was consciously anti-beauty."

The main riff on 'The Gift' still blows me away; such bombastic groove combined with the sophisticated spoken word storytelling of Cale from a piece that was written by Reed in his college days. This boundary-pushing creativity perhaps explains why the New York group are often described as avante-garde. How could a band go from the folk-leaning tendencies of some of their debut material ('Femme Fatale' etc) into this angry, balls-out punk, and then go back on themselves even further down the line with their next album, self-titled and possibly the softest (and most beautiful) thing they would ever record? They were impossible to predict.

Like another of my all-time favourite LPs, David Bowie's Station to Station, White Light/White Heat is only six tracks long. But the range in the album, like the Thin White Duke's classic white-funk opus, is wonderful. 'Lady Godiva's Operation' (about either a sex change or a lobotomy, you decide) is slow and wistful, with a stunning guitar line and an almost prehistoric bassline from Sterling Morrison. Cale's pretty Welsh accent stands out of course, only for Lou to gatecrash the song towards the end and participate in an oddball duet. The title (and opening) track 'White Light/White Heat' is obviously a proto-punk gem, easily one of the glammest Velvet Underground songs of all time. It's camp, it's heavy, it describes the feeling and the buzz of taking amphetamines: "White light goin' messin' up my mind, and don't you know it's gonna make me go blind." It's a dangerous, edgy and fast-paced drug trip of a song, and opens up the possibilities of the album straight away, hinting at the dark directions it would take. It's notable that Bowie used to cover it regularly back in his Ziggy Stardust days, which definitely reinforced its influence on glam-rock.

What follows is 'Here She Comes Now', one of the most feel-good songs I can ever cite, as it just fills me up with joy whenever I hear it. It's one of those songs that me and my friends get drunk and sing along to, and it is another example of Lou Reed being a sexy, dirty motherfucker, as it is about a girl who cannot come. He once again transforms a song about a taboo subject into an innocent sounding rock ballad; "Aww, she looks so good, aww, just like she's made outta wood." Lou's voice is absolutely flawless and it's probably one of his best vocal performances ever. 'I Heard Her Call My Name' (so Lou, did she climax or didn't she?) serves as a kind of introduction to 'Sister Ray', warning the listener that the brutal, krautrock guitar noise madness is about to commence. Straight from the first second we have the wailing, blaring guitar that quickly turns into the steady, chugging main riff. A verse or two from Lou and the repetitive, wah-wah hysteria is back, that says yes, this might as well be classed as a live album. Maureen Tucker's voice can be heard in the backing vocals, which I love, because her childlike performance in 'After Hours' is so pure and merry, and just helping that little bit more to make the Velvet Underground one of the most unique bands ever to play music. They were so hard to pin down: there were too many angles and just as many sides to their songcraft.

Finally comes the album's centrepiece, the snarling, laughing, "fuck you" closer 'Sister Ray'. Lou declares "she's suckin' on my ding dong" while he searches for his mainline, the chaos of the song and the fierce competition within the band for their instruments to be heard, rising above the noise of fuzz. Moe pounds her drumkit, Cale clatters his organ, Lou swaggers in his aura of eternal coolness. For he is one of the greatest frontmen of our time, now sadly gone forever. His comments over the years on the subject of his own work have been memorable, and he had the best and last word on White Light/White Heat back in August of last year: "No one listened to it. But there it is, forever – the quintessence of articulated punk. And no one goes near it." I think I'd have to agree, Lou. No one is ever going to do it as good as you and the Velvets.

A year later, the world still carries on, and we will continue to be without one of the greatest artists that ever lived. Rest in peace old man.