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Metallica - Metallica & Lou Reed: Lulu CD (album) cover




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2.08 | 219 ratings

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1 stars "Waggle my ass like a dark prostitute; coagulating heart, pumping blood. Come on James!"

At least nobody's dense enough to accuse Metallica of trying to sell out with this album. In early 2009, in the midst of touring Death Magnetic and doing whatever else, Metallica found itself at a celebratory event for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and while there they made the acquaintance of the aged Lou Reed (the former frontman of The Velvet Underground and a well- established solo musician in his own right, in case you somehow don't know that). After spending a couple of years mulling over the idea of collaborating, the two parties got together and made an album that's definitely more Reed than Metallica (they do all the instrumental work, and James sings from time to time, but this is clearly Reed's vision). The bulk of it consists of Reed reciting poetry (with occasional forays into singing) based around a pair of plays ("Erdgeist" and "Die Büchse der Pandora") from the early 1900s by a man named Frank Wedekind. It may have been an interesting idea on paper, but it's every bit as abominable as advertised (I'm writing this a couple of weeks after it came out, and while it's possible that, somehow, time will mellow people's reactions towards it, I'm not holding my breath). The marriage between the two sides is as awkward as can possibly be, and while there are certainly some lyrical gems from Reed (I admit thinking that "I wish that I could kill you but I too love your eyes" is a really inspired line) and some snippets of potential goodness from the band (the beginning riff of "Frustration" is a good one, and there are parts of "Pumping Blood" that I wish could be transplanted elsewhere), the overall effect is abysmal. The band basically disappears for most of the last track, the 19:29 (!!) "Junior Dad," which turns into endlessly droning strings by the end. Funnily enough, I actually think this album could have worked somewhat as either a pure Reed solo effort or in collaboration with a less established, more "indie-ish" band, but as is, it doesn't work at all.

So the album sucks, and a track-by-track dissection is pointless. The much more interesting question is why this happened. I can't really figure out the enigma of Reed (this is the man who made Metal Machine Music and by this time seemingly joyously reveled in the idea of not having any fans since then), but while I might be wrong, I think I have a glimpse into what happened with Metallica. See, I've never been able to shake the idea that the band couldn't have been entirely satisfied with Death Magnetic. Oh, I don't mean that they had anything against any of the individual songs or against the flow of the album or the production or anything specific like that. What I mean is that, deep down, James/Kirk/Lars (Rob didn't have enough history with the band for this to be a major issue) couldn't have been thrilled at the idea that the only way to satisfy such a large contingent of their fanbase was to unearth a decades'-old formula they'd avoided for a while. It was pretty much inevitable that, for the sake of their collective sanity, whatever followed DM would have to be a major stylistic detour from what the band had done thus far. And Lulu is definitely a major stylistic detour; while there are certainly moments that (as mentioned) could have been reworked into more standard fare, the overall approach is very different from anything the band had done before. Hammett, for instance, doesn't come close to his standard soloing style (there might be one somewhere on the album but I'll be damned if I'm going to go back and listen yet again to hunt it down), and a lot of his parts seem to be going for a sort of static-y metallic textural approach. The others all similarly do things that sound interesting on paper but come out clumsy and boring on the album.

What's slightly more alarming is that seemingly nobody involved saw fit to stop this trainwreck while it was still in progress, yet I'm not sure this development is surprising either. I mean, it's almost certain that they recognized that some, and probably even a lot of fans and critics would hate this, but I'm not sure they cared. And honestly, I'm not sure I blame anybody in Metallica for not caring. I mean, their entire career after 1983 (maybe earlier?) has been defined by fans complaining about every change they made away from what they were "supposed" to do. They complained when "Fade to Black" had elements of dark balladry. They complained when Master of Puppets became a surprisingly popular album. They complained when "One" had a music video. They complained when the band got bored and made a smash hit with Metallica. They complained when the band got its hair cut. They complained when the band decided to make its fondness of country explicit through "Mama Said" and the "Tuesday's Gone" cover. They complained when the band played with an orchestra. They complained when the band had the audacity to air its problems in film. And so on. Point is, if everything past, sheesh, the first 3-5% of your career involved large amounts of people complaining at you every time you defied their expectations and demands, wouldn't you eventually drown them out and not treat anything they said or thought as worth acknowledging? What essentially happened, in my mind, is that Metallica's fans cried "wolf" so many times that the band decided it was easier just to launch a pre- emptive strike of ignoring its fans when they'd complain about this album ... except that this time, thinking about what the fans would think would have been a really great idea. So you, you still wearing a faded Kill 'Em All shirt and still complaining to anybody who will listen about how awful "Nothing Else Matters" is: you are to blame for Lulu. I hope you're happy.

Anyway, this album does have some interesting bits here and there, which is why I'm tempted to give it a higher grade ... but if ever there was an album that deserved to be the dictionary definition of "artistic blunder," this is it. Neither Reed fans nor Metallica fans need bother with this.

tarkus1980 | 1/5 |


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