Review Summary: An atrocity for the ages.
This has to be a joke. It has
to be. How is it possible for such seasoned and experienced musicians like Lou Reed and the guys in Metallica to create something this artistically void? We know that Lou Reed can do better than this; he was in The Velvet Underground, and was a large part of the creative force behind the very unique, and very influential albums the band put out in the 60s. And for those that for some reason don’t know, Metallica’s discography ain’t too shabby, either (their earlier albums, anyway). We know
that these guys at least used
to be able to write songs, so what caused them to suddenly forget? Was it simply a result of the clashing of musicians used to playing very different styles from one another, or was it something else? Because I find it very hard to believe that these musicians gathered together to write Lulu,
something supposed to be different, unique, and ground-breaking, and for no reason other than terrible decisions in instrumentation and songwriting, failed this
That’s the first problem with Lulu.
It drones on and on in a disguise of “avant-garde,” and accessorizes with one of those irritating pretenses that seems to imply if you don’t like the music, you “just don’t get it.” But there’s nothing to “get.” Lulu
does absolutely nothing
that can truly be considered “avant-garde.” It never experiments with harmony, there’s no use of any foreign instruments, and repeating the same riffs over and over again for minutes at a time, with no change in volume or intensity, is about as experimental as Lulu
gets with song structures. The one attribute of the album that might
be able to be considered something along the lines of “avant-garde” are the lyrics, but the words are so poorly constructed, painfully unsubtle, and create images so ineffective, that I refuse to call them anything but nauseating.
lied to us. That doesn’t necessarily make it the worst album ever. No, it’s what the album does
do that makes it the bewilderingly atrocious piece of work it is. To begin, this album displays Lou Reed giving one of the worst vocal performances I’ve ever heard. Calling it a “vocal performance” would be a stretch, actually, as his monotone rambling only sometimes follows the true definition of “singing.” And to add insult to injury, the volume of his voice is turned up strangely high in the mix, drawing very much unwanted attention to it. And since his voice is so disturbingly loud, it drowns out the other instruments in the background, making the production of the entire album sound extremely amateur and off-putting. “Off-putting,” to put it very lightly.
And while Reed is mindlessly yammering away his incoherent stories about how you “worship someone that actively despises you,”
or about how he “pumps blood in the sunshine/And you wear a leather box with azaleas,”
the guys in Metallica aren’t really doing anything of much interest, either. What Lulu
does most often in terms of how its songs progress is let frustratingly amateur and unimaginative riffs (the fact that these riffs were written by the same guys who wrote a lot of the crushing and stunningly well-put together riffs on metal classics like Ride the Lightning
and Master of Puppets
is absolutely mind-boggling), meander around in the background, while Reed is front and center, making sure everyone hears about how he’s a “woman who likes men.”
The riffs seldom change, and when they do, they only transition to something just as dull and repetitive. And with Lou in the foreground, it’s difficult to appreciate the lazy repetition simply for its atmosphere,
and bask in the ambience. This is exactly what happens in “Cheat On Me,” whose intro is one of the few listenable moments on the album. The song begins with a synth pattern, over which an actually very pretty violin melody is then laid. And right when you’re about to start getting a little lost in the atmosphere, Lou spits all over it with his nonsense and totally screws everything up.
Nothing this album does works. Nothing matches, nothing fits, nothing flows. The fast, thrashy riffs that act as the backdrop for “Mistress Dread” contrast horribly with Reed’s slow, one-dimensional vocal delivery. Reed’s harmonizing with Metallica vocalist James Hetfield in “Iced Honey” does not work at all, simply because their voices do not go together, especially when Hetfield actually sounds like he’s trying to sing.
And the songs go absolutely nowhere.
If the horrid lyrics that Reed has come up with here are actually trying to say something, their final conclusion is never reached, because the lyrics nor the music ever seem to point in any direction.
They just aimlessly wander for their entire lengths. In “Pumping Blood,” and…well, every other song on the album, Reed just keeps repeating his jargon over and over and over
again. And with the riffs being just basic power chord variations, with seldom a solo or any other entertaining display of musicianship, the album becomes painfully boring. Nothing happens.
Nothing happens, that is, except the listener’s saddening realization that a group of musicians that were once some of the greats has spit forth an album that expresses nothing,
and in the least tasteful way possible. Lulu
may have a few listenable moments, like the intro to “Cheat On Me,” or the second half of “Junior Dad,” being basically 10 minutes of soft, ambient strings. But those moments don’t give the album any more merit; they don’t matter. What matters here is that Lou Reed and Metallica, a group of massively influential and once massively talented musicians, failed.
Reed should’ve known no one would care that “the brain that was once listening now/Shoots out its tiresome message,”
even if it is true, but to a higher degree. Because Lulu
is far worse than “tiresome.” It’s a painful, pretentious, droning mess that has tarnished not one, but two legacies.