We all assumed it was a bad joke. Then, every single music blog declared ‘Lou Reed/Metallica collaboration ACTUALLY HAPPENING.’ Now Lulu is here, and it’s real. And it’s still a bad joke. A long, hideously botched, dramatically misguided room-clearer of a joke.
You don’t actually have to listen to it – praise fuck for that, because it’s somehow ninety ungodly minutes long – because that dire cover actually doubles as a checklist for all the things that are going to make you angry when you do: it’s ugly, it’s gore-splattered, it’s revoltingly sexist, it’s exploitative, it’s missing limbs and it’s almost impossible to behold for more than about fifteen seconds at a time.
I’ve been weirdly forgiving towards Metallica as of late. I was kind enough to simply ignore Death Magnetic, and fifteen-year-old me actually bought and somehow enjoyed the fuck out of St. Anger (‘All of us who are worth anything, spend our manhood in unlearning the follies, or expiating the mistakes of our youth.’ – Percy Shelley). But I can’t cry Sandman no more. Musically, this is just too much. It’s a train wreck fighting another, bigger train wreck. Remember how much we all hated the drums on St. Anger? Well, at least video proof exists that Lars actually showed up those sessions. Here, he plays like someone learning as he goes along, and who plans to learn how to actually lay drum tracks onto tape sometime after he’s worked out how he managed to glue his fucking hands together. At their best, on Mistress Bread (Kind of the best track, like that makes any difference), Ulrich’s drums are simply very fast and deeply uninteresting. At their worst – too many examples, but for the sake of an anecdote let’s go with lead single The View – they sound unnervingly like a drum composition I made with Windows ‘95 for pre-GCSE music class.
The worst part about the pretension of Metallica’s contribution is how entry level it is; every music student with rock leanings got all this shit out of their system in their first year of uni, and it’s worth remembering that three of these guys just celebrated three decades of playing together. They’ve always been at their best when sticking to their confirmed Happy Place: straight up thrash, slightly melodic if you’re lucky. But there’s no excuse for experimentation that fails this utterly. What, you bought a Sunn O))) record? YOU STILL CAN’T FUCKING DO DRONE. And it takes a lot more to be groundbreaking than having just hitting notes out of sequence. Dragon actually seems to start with a rejected demo from Lou’s own Metal Machine Music, and who ever thought THAT would one day be a fucking touchstone for anyone? Worst of all, they don’t even settle back into thrash when actually trying gets too taxing, instead settling for a turgid sub-metal racket, horribly under-produced. One memorable riff would have been a cool addition, but whatever.
Luckily, Lou Reed is here. Luckily, I say, because without him Lulu would simply be dull, depressing and of no value. With him, it’s also incredibly funny and deeply, deeply reprehensible. Using Frank Wedekind’s ‘Lulu’ plays (Erdgeist (1895) and Die Buschse der Pandora (1904)) as inspiration – read ‘taking all the ideas and regurgitating them, with more references and tits and blood’ – Reed paints an abstract – read ‘vague and oblique’ – canvas detailing the exploits of the titular heroine, a sexy dancer who kinkily shags innumerable wealthy men, then ends up poor, destitute and on the game. You might enjoy Lulu if you really fancy a sludge-metal Spring Awakening with added bleeding and sexism (God knows what Fawcett’s Heroes are going to make of ‘Cheat On Me’) , as interpreted and performed by a dirty old man and his four friends. But please stay away from my kids.
Let’s play a game: I’ll list some moments from Reeds lyrics that made me laugh out loud. Then I’ll counter them with some that made me legitimately angry. Here goes!
LOL: When he sings ‘Hallucination’ during Dragon and it sounds exactly like the Imagination Song from South Park.
Frowny Face: ‘As I pump more blood / And it seeps through my skin / Will you adore the river / The stream, the trickle / The tributary of my heart’ – Pumping Blood pretty much maintains that level of fun throughout.
LOL: The zillionth time that Lou and Hetfield say the words ‘Cheat on me’ during.. well, Cheat On Me.
Frowny Face ‘I will swallow your sharpest cutter / Like a colored man’s dick.’ Sexist, racist.. I know you’re in character, but you still don’t get to say shit like that.
LOL: ‘A graveyard romance can only give one chance / As the tombstones weave and breathe.’ – What’s up, Ville Vallo!
Frowny Face: The moment when I realised that none of the metaphors in Iced Honey mean the slightest goddamn thing.
LOL: ‘I AM THE TABLET!’
Frowny Face: ‘Tie me with a scarf and jewels / Put a bloody gag to my teeth / I beg you to degrade me / Is there waste that I could eat?’ – You wrote Venus in Furs, Lou. What the fuck are you DOING?
Y’know what? I’m not convinced that Lou and Metallica actually shared any studio time. I’m not even confident that they exchanged master tapes. Because the thing that transforms Lulu from merely terrible to completely unlistenable – except that run time, of course – is that the vocals are totally out of sync with the music, sometimes to even the most basic level. It sounds like two albums with wildly differing tempos are being played simultaneously. Except whoever hit play was ever so slightly itchier of trigger-finger with Metallica’s album. Which is fair enough; after all, they’ve only been musicians of no value for one decade, compared to Lou’s two. Though they never wrote ‘White Light/White Heat.’ OH FUCK. Lou Reed wrote ‘White Light/White Heat.’ Oh God, oh fuck, oh God.
We can laugh and joke and seethe and spit about Lulu all day – and we will – but if you’re after a poster quote, try this on for size: Lulu is a profoundly depressing, hideously self-indulgent, staggeringly infantile and totally unforgivable mess that was somehow produced by grown-ass men. Everyone involved should be banned from recording, should never be allowed to sell another gig ticket, and should, above all else, be ashamed.
Well, that was fun. Think I’ll go have sex with John Cale now.