Lou Reed & Metallica – Lulu

Warner Bros.

The scariest thing for me on Halloween weekend was not the costumes but rather knowing that I had to review Lulu . Between “Gramptallica” on YouTube (which features TV gramps Abraham Simpson fronting Metallica) Chuck Klosterman’s essay on the many ways in which Lulu is an utter failure and pages upon pages of angry Metallica fans ranting about it on the Internet (they really do enjoy the feeling of “betrayal” — Klosterman nailed that one) I can’t help but feel that nothing else needs to be said. On the other hand albums that fail as spectacularly as this one come along so rarely and I’m always game to bring out my critic’s knives.

Lulu is confounding and for none of the reasons Reed and co. have been priding themselves on — watching their 13-minute press video I keep expecting Reed to take off a mask and reveal that he’s Andy Kaufman. I could try to engage Lulu from the perspective of the musicians involved detailing the tension between providing fulfilment for a stagnant fanbase and well-established musicians doing whatever the fuck they want but even that would be giving Lulu too much credit. Just about everything on Lulu is so obviously terrible so turgid and utterly baffling that I can’t help but think it’s all an elaborate joke. Reed’s Metal Machine Music contains more ideas and doesn’t begin with the embarrassingly juvenile lyric “I would cut my legs and tits off.”

Look I get it. Sometimes bands get bored. If they’re concerned with maintaining artistic relevancy they might branch out and produce an interesting new direction of work. Lulu is interesting but only as an object of derision — between Reed’s self-consciously spooky inebriated grandpa delivery on “Pumping Blood” James Hetfield’s hilarious “I am the table” tantrum on “The View” the pointless 20-minute drone of “Junior Dad” or the just frankly uncomfortable merger of half-baked sludge riffs with overlong track lengths (perhaps present so that Lars Ulrich can pound out just one more drum fill or so Reed can awkwardly stammer out another lyrical nadir like “I swallow your sharpest curdle like a coloured man’s dick”) I’m amazed that nobody involved woke up and realized this high-profile concept album was an hour and a half of half-written ideas with neanderthalic execution (something about German Expressionism; you’d be better off rewatching The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari while running barefoot on a treadmill tracked with sandpaper).

Yet somehow Rolling Stone claims Lulu “rages up a storm” and Artist Direct calls it “A CHILLING [sic] dramatic display of heaviness” as if all music listeners were myopic children unable to look beyond the bloated corpse of an irrelevant corporate music machine for their entertainment.

If you want proof that spoken word and rock can be successfully merged (something I’d be suspicious of if Lulu were my first encounter with it) I’d strongly urge you to check out the fantastic new Enablers record Blown Realms and Stalled Explosions instead. And before any Metallica apologists decry me by saying “Oh you missed the point this is a ballsy experimental work that was meant to upset commercial standards” you’re wrong. Enjoy Lulu for what it is: the most spectacularly hilarious musical failure of 2011.