Review: Metallica & Lou Reed, “Lulu”

Loutallica

Every once in a while, there’s an album so big that every member of the metal press simply has to write about it.

“Lulu,” the collaboration between Metallica and ’60s-70s electric/ecclectic folk freak Lou Reed is one of those albums.

We can’t ignore an album by “the biggest metal band in the world,” I suppose … but reviewing a humorless, directionless, pointless car crash like “Lulu” ain’t gonna be a whole lotta fun, either. Sigh, let’s just tackle this sunnavabeech of an album right now and get it over with, shall we?

Loutallica first performed together at the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame and they thought it went so freakin’ well that they had to collaborate on a full album. So Reed dusted off some lyrics he’d cobbled together based on a cycle of German expressionist plays (no, I’m not making that up), presented them to the band and said, “OK, boys, let’s make some art!”

If the comments from Reed, Lars Ulrich and Kirk Hammett are to be believed, “art” is really what they think they achieved with “Lulu.” I guess the argument could be made — I mean hell, if I guy can stick a crucifix in a jar, pee on it and pass it off as “art,” the word “art” has no meaning anyway.

So I’ll give Loutallica a pass in the “art” category, but honestly, this is just about the worst musical pile of dung I’ve heard in years. Words are inadequate to articulate the incredible, impossible, staggering awfulness of this album. Every last thing about it is wrong, and it’s an album that will not please fans of either Metallica or Lou Reed. It’s as if the album was cut with the deliberate intention of alienating as many listeners as possible. If that was the goal, Loutallica succeeded.

What’s wrong with “Lulu”? Well, let’s start with that German expressionist yap Reed is spouting. According to their Web site, the “Lulu” plays were written in the early 1900s and were about “a young abused dancer’s life and relationships.”

Maybe someone could have taken that theme and made a compelling album — the phrase “young abused dancer” stirs an interesting mental image of a 20-something ballerina with a bit of a kinky streak buried within her — and who wouldn’t want to meet that girl?. Hell, give that concept to Shirley Manson and Garbage and I’ll bet they make something sexy out of it.

Reed, however, wasn’t up to the challenge. Reed sounds stoned out of his mind, or just off his meds, as he rambles through each of “Lulu’s” dismal excuses for songs. And the lyrics, wowee-zowee, you gotta hear them to believe them.

“Follow me around, pathetic little dog,” Reed croaks in “Little Dog.” “Smell your sh*t in the wind.”

On “Frustration,” Reed reaches a level of epic atrociousness, with lines like, “spermless like a girl,” “you and your prickless lover” and “I want so much to hurt you, I want you as my wife.”

“I’m a woman who likes men,” Reed spits on “Mistress Dread.” “I wish you would tie me up and beat me … I wish there was a strap of blood you could kiss away… I beg you to degrade me,” and it just goes on and on, with every new utterance more ridiculous, hideous and embarrassing than the last.

Frankly, Metallica vocalist James Hetfield doesn’t help this mess. Het is unintentionally hilarious when he starts yelling “small town girl!” on “Brandburg Gate”  and “I am the table!” on “The View.” Later in the album, Het sings, “why do I cheat on me?” And you’ll think, “jeeze, James, I don’t know why — but stop it, so I don’t have to hear about it anymore, why donchya?”

Musically, only two of the tracks, “Iced Honey” and the first half of “Junior Dad” sound like “songs” at all. The rest of the album sounds like a “St. Anger” jam session intermixed with a “free-jazz” session that makes Spinal Tap’s Jazz Odyssey sound inspired.

There’s not enough “metal” here to make metal fans happy — sure, the band thrashes a bit on “Mistress Dread,” but most of the music sounds like jam-band-gone-wrong.

So “Lulu” is a trainwreck of monumental proportions. Everyone involved behind the scenes had to realize how earth-shakingly bad this project was, so the real mystery about “Lulu” is: Why didn’t anyone tell Reed and the band the truth? Wasn’t there a producer or manager or even a freakin’ studio janitor who could’ve said, “sorry, Lars, but this music really sucks”? Perhaps this is what happens when artists get so big that they lose all connection with reality.

Reed and Metallica seems to be off in their own parallel reality, where down is up, right is left and anything they record is automatically “good” and “art.” Well, bullsh*t. “Lulu” is absolute unlistenable dreck. I can’t even laugh at the album, because Loutallica is obviously taking the damn thing soooooo seriously. What a joyless pile of broken cogs and widgets.

The members of Metallica were always hell-bent on doing things their way, on their own terms. That worked for them in the past, but we’ll see how much of the fan base is willing to embrace “Lulu.” I think Metallica is gonna lose some fans on this one.

After listening to “Lulu” several times, I wouldn’t blame those old fans who throw up their hands and walk away one single bit.

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