Review Summary: a match made in hell.
The thought of Metallica collaborating with Lou Reed might provoke a warm-hearted laugh, for some. Both exist in entirely different realms of music, have long since exhausted their sound, and have both come to a creative slump. Prolific rock star Lou Reed’s output after the breakup of The Velvet Underground has been, for the most part, surprisingly enjoyable in its own right. As a lyricist, Reed writes of personal experiences in deviant sexuality, drugs, alcohol, etc., all the conventional adornment that makes rock music what it is, but he managed to blend noise, folk, and experimental art rock nicely enough to escape his rudimentary lyrical themes. However, with his albums from the former half of the last decade being full of rehashed ideas and derivative restatements of past hits, his hiatus came at a fitting time. Metal juggernauts Metallica, on the other hand, are firmly rooted in thrash-metal and hard rock. In 1986 they sought out to create an album free of thrash and ironically conceived one of the most influential and well-liked thrash-metal albums of all time: Master of Puppets
. Later, Metallica went on to defile their legacy with the vomit-inducing St. Anger
and most recently recovered slightly with their proceeding effort Death Magnetic
. At a recent 25th anniversary rock show in 2009, these ‘visionaries’ had such a good time playing with each other that they knew they were, to quote Reed, “made for each other” and thus, chose to birth an album that should have been aborted long before its release.
If the cover of Lulu
is anything to go by, it’s a sad reflection of the disjointed sounds from these two legends as they fail to orchestrate their styles and hearken back to the glory days. As a matter of fact, the peevish look about this porcelain face of a severed body echoes the portrayal of two once great artists now defeated and without a leg to stand on. From opener “Brandenburg Gate” it’s blatantly obvious that these two cannot function together. The soothing calm of Reed’s folk music doesn’t blend with Metallica’s heavier elements at all. Reed’s absence from the creative process and age are immediately felt as he rambles an old man’s country chant of “Small town girl!” Coupled with Metallica’s intrusive riffs, this raspy vocal performance in the vain of Johnny Cash is embarrassing and forced as all hell. At first it almost feels like a parody of all of the stereotypes surrounding bad rock-folk fusion bands out there, except it takes itself seriously.
The worst part is that “Brandenburg Gate” is essentially the abatement of nuisances that plague the rest of the album. Most of the songs here have their titles repeated to the point where listening to them feels like an endurance test. “Cheat On Me” spends 11 minutes asking the question: “Why do I cheat on me?”, while “Pumping Blood” similarly repeats “I’m pumping blood”. It’s no surprise that the latter was recorded in one live take, as Reed seems like he’s just making it up as he goes: “If I’m pumping blood / like a common state worker / if I waggle my ass / like a dark prostitute / would you think less of me / and my coagulating heart?” After 5 excruciatingly painful minutes of that, Reed incessantly yells: “Jack, Jack, Jack I beseech you! I call out your name”. It’s the musical equivalent of a drunken rambling, slurred and frantic in presentation and completely nonsensical, not to mention flat-out pathetic.
With all of that said, Lulu
is without a single shred of doubt the least enjoyable album of 2011. The lyrics are atrociously juvenile, humiliating, and occasionally hysterical, especially when Hetfield randomly bellows lines like “I am the table!” The music accompanying Reed’s impoverished vocals is bland in every way imaginable. Metallica are admired for their proficient technicality and interesting solos, but on Lulu
they sound uninspired and bored. Lulu
strips the heaviness of Metallica and Lou Reed of his folksy art-rock designation. Every song takes the aspects that make both artists great and waters them down to help accommodate one another, but the shoddily executed concept falls flat on its face. At its best, and most perverse, the longest track, “Junior Dad”, is the least offensive thing here and a damn sight better than everything else, but still far from enjoyable. At its worst, Lulu
is ten times more horrid than St. Anger
and is an unimaginative, pitiful record that deserves to be sold at convenience stores and freeway truck stops.