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Lulu

November 1, 2011

Normally, when I write a review on an album or a particular piece of music, it’s because I like it or I think it’s overlooked.

This time, things are a little different.

When Metallica and Lou Reed were reported to be collaborating on a new, experimental album, my first reaction was rather stupid and illogical: I was overjoyed. I thought, “hey, one of the most talented metal bands is teaming up with one of the most influential alternative rock icons in the world! This is going to be sweet, bro!” I failed to stop and realize that Lou Reed and Metallica have absolutely nothing in common and this was probably something to be fearful about. Just because a few musical acts are top-tier in their respective areas of expertise doesn’t necessarily mean it warrants a supergroup.  Honestly, I love scrambled eggs and I love potato chips; but I’m not about to pour Cool Ranch Doritos all over my omelette. And that’s exactly what Lulu is: a breakfast sampler stuffed with Slim Jims, basted in 4Loko, and served au jus the kind of pretension that assumes this kind of unholy union is nothing less than sweet nectar to the ears of both fanbases.
Very seldom does the whole idea of a “supergroup” pan out to be more than just cashing in on your own bloated ego, or last beyond one convoluted album. One of the only exceptions to the rule that comes to mind is Them Crooked Vultures, which was essentially 3 megastars coming together—but it was a melding that carried a great deal of common interest and generally cohesive songwriting. Being able to bring together each musician from differing backgrounds and form a cohesive theme is, unfortunately, not one of the prevalent ideas at work in Lulu.

Describing what Lulu sounds like is sort of difficult. I mean, if you can picture the aural  pish-posh you get with Reed’s Metal Machine Music / later 90’s tripe mixed with perhaps the worst of St. Anger, that’s what it is.  Instrumentally, all the tracks are pretty uninspired; they meander all over the place and go nowhere. It’s depressing to hear Kirk Hammet noodle about on a guitar as if it’s the first time he’s ever picked one up. Listening to the same riff drone on and on, as it does in the second track “The View” might make you want to fall asleep, if not for Reed’s mumbling nu-order prose.
Oh, right: I forgot to mention Lou Reed’s part in this debacle. This is, after all, Lou Reed’s vehicular manslaughter charge; Metallica is merely the passenger.
I’m a fan of Lou Reed and all—I own all his records—but I can admit he’s gotten a little cuckoo as the years waned on. Some of his worst work was on “The Raven” and everyone knows it. But the writing he commits to Lulu is a special kind of Pandora’s Box of shitbird delusions and nonsensical warbling. It’s the kind of garbage that not even the most melodramatic Tumblr-landscaping Livejournal shepherd-of-none would owe up to.

Despite all this degradation, I must say that I feel that Lulu is a very special album; thus, it deserves a special track-by-track review in order to give you the full diorama of what terror, disgust, and hilarity await you.

1) The very first lines in the very first track “Bradenburg Gate” are as follows:
“I would cut my legs and tits off when I think of Boris Karloff and Kinski; in the dark of the moon. It made me dream of Nosferatu, trapped on the isle of Dr. Moreau.” What immediately follows a second later is a slow, rusty guitar riff accentuated by Hetfield wailing “SMALL TOWN GURL” as if he’s trying to ape Billy Joel with distortive fuzz at the rear. The rest is just Lou Reed pounding the pulpit like a rogue preacher in an acid flashback. What the hell is going on.

2) The second track, “The View,” is, like I mentioned before,  home to a mind-numbing guitar riff that sounds like it was dragged off a demo disc circa “The Butt Attack EP. 1980” or something. I can’t even believe that Lars “Need More Bass Drum” Ulrich, the crown prince of percussion “improvision,” is being collared to the most rudimentary drum beat you’ve heard since “Sample 1” on your synth keyboard. What’s that I hear in the foreground? Oh, it’s more pointless diatribe from Lou Reed. What the fuck is he talking about? Oh, who cares. He tunelessly floats lazily o’erhead, just before James Hetfield launches into a fleeting solo and declares “I am the table! I am a table!” Ladies and gentlemen, this man is a fucking table.  Somebody get him some fucking chairs and set the table; tonight’s supper will be comprised of rot and woe, courtesy of maitre’d Lou Reed.

3) “Pumping Blood” begins with some very poignant, non-Metallica string arrangements, evoking a bucolic…oh, wait. Here comes the boring riff and drumline, paired with Lou Reed moaning “pumping blood” like a grandmother on her deathbed. God, when will this riff end? Does Lou Reed have a mandate against solos? Or any kind of lick that differentiates itself from a single chord? A soliloquy halfway has me in tears of laughter, something about “trickling of blood; will you adore the river!? If I’m pumping blood like a common state worker…if I waggle my ass like a state prostitute, will you think less of me!?” Aside, Lars Ulrich does his best retarded Neil Peart impression; I sit listlessly but nod in affirmation. Yes, Lars; that is what Neil Peart would sound like if he had one arm, one eye, and half a brain.
One thing I can’t figure out is the identity of the “Jack” or “Jane” mentioned repeatedly in the lyrics. One part of me wants to go through Lou Reed’s back catalouge and decipher the meaning of this seemingly random beseechment. Another part of me doesn’t give a shit and wants this track to be over. Yet another, stronger sentiment is to strangle Lou Reed and drown out his meaningless story.

4) You know what? I lied. I can’t do a full review of this album.

To go in-depth with each and every song would be excruciating to both the reader and myself, for two reasons: first of all, I assume by what I have described for you, you’ve already tasted a portion of the tancrid pie Lulu truly is, and your appetite for artsy sludge has been satiated. Second of all: you are all sick people, and people know that if something is bad for them, they’ll do it anyway. Lulu is like that one sickening exploitation film your mother told you was no good—but you watch it anyway, and guess what? It sucks and it’s gross. Lulu is no different; to be truly understood, it must be experienced. It is out of morbid amusement and general psychopathy that I own this album on my iTunes. Just as the jerks that came before me with their “hey, watch this YouTube video,” I too hold a terrible secret.

Before I complete this horrible cavalcade of nonsense, I leave you with the knowledge that Rolling Stone gave the single “The View” four out of four stars.  The Telegraph stated “it’s the sheer sense of unrestrained folly throughout that makes Lulu feel like an important album.” Now, we can all agree that Rolling Stone is worthless when it comes to musical criticism; their flip-flop via “popular opinion” to grant bands like Nirvana, Led Zeppelin, and Rush favorable reviews show how much integrity they have. However, we can  agree with the Telegraph’s statement. Yes; this album is important, much in the way a tragic airplane crash is important. Lulu is a marvel solely because a group of seemingly-legendary men went into a studio, recorded these songs, and nodded generously to the fact that they had birthed unto our ears a gold standard. That, I believe, is total “unrestrained folly.” Lulu is a complete mess, but it is also a hilarious one. A hilarious, torturous, arduous mess that pretty much easily wins my approval for Worst Album 2011.

5/10 (for the laughs)

2/10 (for serious)

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