Sunday, November 13, 2011

Lou Reed and Metallica - Lulu

Everyone is crushing this album, saying it’s one of the worst albums of the year. Some critics have even gone as far as saying it’s one of the worst albums ever. I really like Lou Reed and Metallica used to be really, really good. I did not have to listen to Death Magnetic to know that it would be a sub par record, but this was different. This piqued my curiosity. How bad is Lulu? Would it make me rethink the awfulness of Nickelback? Is Lou Reed grasping at straws here, attempting to make a masterwork, and not realizing that Metallica has become a parody of themselves? Why not go with a band that has relevance in modern times? I mean, you’re Lou fucking Reed dude! Most musicians would clamor over the opportunity to work with you. Why Metallica?

I don’t pay attention to such things, but apparently this album was super hyped. This could be a huge reason why people don’t think so highly of it. If you’re going to come out with a record and make a big stink about it, it better deliver. These are two extremely well known artists; they have both made really great music over the course of their careers. By coming out and saying that this is a very important piece of music or calling it the best thing you’ve ever done musically, you better be ready to take heat for it. Even if it isn’t awful, people are going to want to shred you for being so pompous about it.

Lulu is a concept album. I’ve never read the Frank Wedekind plays that this is based off of. I’ve only heard of this at all because it was mentioned by Mr. Burns in the Simpsons episode “Weekend at Burnsie’s”. (Old man Burns is going over a speech with newly promoted Homer and Smithers and he says “Profit margins are thinner than, Louise Brooks’ negligee!” There is little reaction and Burns says “You know, Louise Brooks, the silent star of Lulu?” When this still elicits no reaction Burns sweats out one drop on his forehead and then goes to take a “bathiola.”) If Mr. Reed was inspired by this episode of the Simpsons to make an album based on these works, maybe he should have had Phish assist him on this album being that they were in the episode. That would be interesting, Phish songs about prostitution. Why Metallica, Lou, why?

Upon first listening, this is the best thing I’ve heard from Metallica since …And Justice for All. This is not really a surprise to me, the Black album was pretty blah, and Load and Reload straight up sucked. I didn’t bother with St. Anger and I’ve already said I’ve never heard Death Magnetic. Don’t get me wrong Metallica fans, this is not the genre defining Metallica of the 80’s. But instead of the boring, sober lyrics of James Hetfield, you get lyrics written by Lou Reed. That’s a major upgrade. The riffs aren’t mind-blowing, but Metallica hasn’t written any great songs in over twenty years. It doesn’t matter who they’re working with, that’s not going to change. Yes, it sounds like Metallica, but anyone who knows how to play that style of music could have made this record. The question remains, why did it have to be Metallica?

Focusing more on what Lou Reed brings to this collaboration, yes, his voice doesn’t sound great. But let’s cut the guy some slack here, he’s nearing 70. Lyrically, I personally don’t find the album offensive, but if you’ve been in attendance at any comedy show I’ve performed at, you would have to figure that I wouldn’t be offended. I find it very hard to be offended by art. I’m much more likely to be offended by life (see previous blog post about Jerry Sandusky). I oftentimes find art poorly done, and that may be exactly what we have here in Lulu, but offensive this is not. Yes, Lou speaks of death, and cocks, and vulvas, and fucking, but last I checked this album was made in 2011, not 1911. If your problem with Lulu is in the subject matter, go buy a Jonas Brothers CD and get the fuck outta here.

More likely what you won’t like about Lulu is the repetitiveness of the whole thing. This album is nearly an hour and a half long. It could have easily been trimmed of a full half hour and the story could have been told just as completely. Who knows, maybe they wanted to make a four LP set so that fans had to shell out a ridiculous amount of money for it. I’m not even sure how many records that would come out to, so I don’t know why it’s so long. With that being said, it’s not wholly unlistenable. There are some decent parts to this album and though I downloaded it (for free, suck it Lars!) mainly to see how bad it was, I’m not going to delete it immediately. I’ll probably listen to it a few more times to see if there is anything more to it than what I’ve gotten out of it thus far. This is definitely not the worst music of the year. Didn't Britney Spears put out an album this year? There is not a single track on Lulu anywhere near as bad as "Hold it Against Me".

If you are a Metallica fan that has endured through their last twenty years of shoddiness, you should not pass on this record. This is a major upgrade from the crap they’ve been peddling since the early nineties. If you are a Lou Reed fan, you might want to forget this whole ordeal. Wait it out and see if he does The Chronicles of Narnia with the Beastie Boys or War and Peace with Slayer. Chances are both of those would be more interesting than Lulu.

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