Review Summary: Our strange, yet alluring interesting in infamy.
Tommy Wiseau's The Room (2003) is a universally recognized example of the worst film ever made, a claim made by just about anyone who's ever sat down and watched the 99-minute portrayal of the fall and collapse of film-making from title to credits. But from that unfortunate notion comes a comprehensive personality that oozes out of every pore of the film; the painfully flat soundtrack, fragmented editing, confusing story, nonsensical script, and lifeless characters behind utterly derelict acting made The Room an unintentional cult classic. It's the rare representation of absolute failure, a serious attempt at drama turned into pure, inadvertent comedy gold. And there lies the attraction, because within all of its unrelenting inadequacy, the film emits a surreal edge above even the most concrete standards of poor filmmaking. It’s a kind of subconscious instinct we share, our fascination in watching someone, or something completely collapse beyond relation.
It’s no mere coincidence that an outlet like YouTube rose to become the multimedia mammoth it is today based considerably on content of people making fools of themselves, or why someone like Rebecca Black and her notorious ode to the best day of the week became embedded into the popular culture. It’s our strange, yet alluring interest in infamy. And now, this perplexing truth may have finally met its audible equivalent on Lou Reed & Metallica’s Lulu. Yet as time has passed since its bloody delivery, the public has spoken blindly through instantly bottomed-out ratings and scornful fists-in-the-air inspections of a body of work, though richly scarred and undoubtedly wounded, deserving of a second opinion.
What makes Lulu a considerably different beast is, rather than the disposable talent of the aforementioned examples; it brought together two revered acts, each with an abundantly respectable catalogue of work spanning multiple decades. And because of that pressure was automatic, though whether your expectations were high or low is irrelevant, because in reality Lou Reed & Metallica fell off the cliff as soon as they entered the studio. Everything from the grotesque cover art, absurdly extensive runtime, and very nature of the bizarre collaboration was questionable. But then there was the music behind it all. If Lou Reed & Metallica were genuinely serious about making a deep, poetic heavy rock album, they do a respectable job of hiding it throughout the recording Lulu.
When Lou Reed forgot to attend his monthly obligation to the AA, spent his senior government-aided allowance on hard whiskey and a (rumored) bootlegged pint of Appalachian Moonshine, and showed up in the studio with a six hundred and sixty six post-it notes of forgotten scat-poetry he came up with after pub-crawling local mental hospitals during the recording of Metal Machine Music, why didn’t James and the boys stop him? Why didn’t they simply pull the silly old man (clearly in a wasted state) from the shaking microphone for those 87 minutes? Taken into consideration; it was all an experiment, an ugly backwoods bastard-child of an experiment. “I would cut my legs and tits off when I think of Boris Karloff”, “Puking my guts at your feet”, “Please spit into my mouth”, “Like a colored man’s dick, blood spurting from me”, “I am the table”. Avant-garde proto-metal lyricism for the ages, all we need now is a theatrical version of such wit, where Lou Reed can be heard frantically dubbing in dialogue at the last minute.
Lulu was a failure on nearly all levels, a confusing collaboration between two appreciated acts who were confident within a body of work that didn’t go where they wanted it to go. But where it fell afterwards sets Lulu contrary from just another bad album. On the “The View”, Lou and the boys do a bit of classy nostalgic digging on those memories we can all relate too, of listening to your buzzed grandfather’s faux-poetic ramblings at a mid '90s Gen X Monster Truck Rally event catered by Turbo Fuel Maximum Energy Soda; Suck, Swallow, Release. Those were novel memories, and that’s what Lulu reveals when you strip it down to its barest essentials; an obscure little experiment that far too many took far too seriously. There’s too much unbelievable material here to make you question in disbelief, or laugh out loud with to cast it all away as forgettably flawed material. I plan on revisiting Lulu often, to bask in its disfigured glory until all that's left in its shadow is an empty bottle of whiskey on the table, and the humming reminiscence of a brimming power chord.