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Review: Metallica & Lou Reed – Lulu

A club-handed ode to high art from a century ago, translated for the hordes of morebetterfasterNOW.

 

I've been putting this off. I was hoping it would click, digging for an angle through which I could examine the whole of this Lou Reed/Metallica album as an appreciable effort among titans of their world. But there is no escaping what Lulu truly is: the single worst mash-up record ever made.

Digging into the root peripherals where the album takes its cues – specifically German expressionist Frank Wedekind's early 20th century plays “Earth Spirit” and “Pandora's Box” – one finds a thin sheen of redemption in theme only. The plays, originally published in 1904 and set in Germany, Paris and London in the 1890s, are alternately told from the perspectives of Lulu, a doomed dancer/whore trapped in the cycles of desire and abuse, and those unfortunate enough to be in love with her. Spoiler alert: the story concludes as Lulu meets Jack The Ripper.

It would only be through this context that we can begin to understand an album so irredeemably atrocious that the least of its offenses is the opening line: "I would cut my legs and tits off". Well hello to you, too.

The acoustic pound-strumming at the onset of opener "Brandenburg Gate" was tempting, under the morbid musings of a poet aiming high on shock value in his twilight. It's either that, or simply the disjointed ramblings of a badly afflicted Vietnam vet over what amounts to a thrash-heavy Metallica demo. Repetition is the most prominent player on what amounts to a failed "art record," and if you just don't get it, man, well… you're in plentiful company. James Hetfield howling "small town girl" over and over is just melodic enough to remind us that there could've been a song in there.

First single "The View" sounds like Sabbath's "Iron Man" played backwards, a sludgy haunted house soundtrack that doesn't sound designed for anything but dissonant discomfort. A tender drone leads into the pensive beginnings of “Junior Dad,” Reed whisper-singing just within range of listenable melody. But it goes nowhere. Literally. There is no development, no payoff, no chorus. This isn't a song so much as a twenty minute expression, more than half of which is a return to the meditative droning that began it.

“Use a knife on me! Blood spurting from me!” Reed croaks. And truly, croaking is among the kindest ways of describing the barely-discernible babbling mess of dark-ass lyrics and morbid verbal pictures that only fleetingly connect with the music in any way. “I beg you to degrade me, is there waste that I could eat?” And so on.

On its face, it's an odd union of two iconic cross-generational powerhouses (even if in name only), for no discernible reason other than to send one act off into his accelerating decomposition on a power-chord buzz. If it stands as a matter of personal indulgence in creative experimentation, it stands as an inside-joke that pitifully few will appreciate. It's a club-handed ode to high art from a century ago, translated for the hordes of morebetterfasterNOW.

Chuck Klosterman said it best: "We don't live in a vacuum. We live on Earth. And that means we have to accept the real-life consequences of a culture in which recorded music no longer has monetary value, and one of those consequences is Lulu."

CraveOnline Rating: 2 out of 10