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'Lulu' mixes Metallica and Lou Reed

By Andrew Revord
Associate Editor-In-Chief
Metallica used to put a sticker on their 1986 album “Master of Puppets” parodying the early “Parental Warning: Explicit Content” stickers.  Perhaps the heavy metal giants should have put a sticker on “Lulu,” their collaboration album with avant-garde rock pioneer Lou Reed (of Velvet Underground fame), warning listeners that this album will probably upset them if they are Metallica or Lou Reed fans, or people who like good music in general.  It certainly is not for everyone.
“Lulu” is based off some songs Reed wrote based on two plays 19th and 20th century German playwright Frank Wedekind.  No doubt this thing was going to be really out of left field.  I was really nervous about this because both artists have a history of making bad musical decisions and infuriating their fans.  Still, I hoped for the best.
I heard the album’s first single, titled “The View,” released on Youtube back in September.  It sounded like what I expected, but not in a good way.  Metallica droned on with a riff that kept on repeating, backed by the craptastic drumming of their drummer, Lars Ulrich, and Reed’s freestyle poetry.  Just when a solo section seemed to break out and I got my hopes up, it was abruptly cut off.
Near the end of the song, Metallica singer/guitarist James Hetfield shouts that he is several nonsensical things: a tablet, the “view,” the “progress,” the “aggressor,” a 10-story building, etc.  In between this, he repeatedly says he is a table.
Mr. Hetfield, you are many things.  You are one of the most influential musicians in heavy metal and all of rock.  You the leader of one of the world’s biggest rock bands. But you are NOT a table.
Unfortunately, “I AM THE TABLE!” may be what everyone will remember “Lulu” for.  It has already become a punchline across the Internet among disgruntled fans.
Metallica fans, like fans of a certain Chicago baseball team, are legendary for their unbreakable loyalty when their gods ignore and frustrates them, but “The View” seemed to be the final insult to their intelligence that they would take, if the comments and dislike bar on its YouTube video are any indication.  Dozens of comments said things like “It makes [poorly received Metallica album] St. Anger look good.”  The fact Metallica could do something that pissed their fans off THAT bad is truly impressive.
Reed fans, more accustomed to his experimentation and style, appeared generally more receptive, but few seemed to be amazed by the song.
Even more optimistic commentors didn’t seem too impressed, promising things like “Don’t worry, I’m sure the rest of it won’t suck!”
Still clinging to hope, I listened to the whole album when it was released.  The first track, “Brandenburg Gate,” begins with a pretty acoustic guitar riff.  “Okay,” I thought. “This is good.”
Then it stops, and Reed begins, “I would cut my legs and tits off when I think of Boris Karloff and Kinski in the dark of the moon.”  Seriously.
I sigh to myself.  By now, I think I’ve finally killed all my expectations of loving this album.
The sad thing is, this song is actually one of the better ones on the album, featuring a coherent, bluesy main riff with Metallica’s signature heavy crunch and Reed’s poetic lyrics.  The lyrics are still dumb (Hetfield repeatedly sings “small town girl” for most of the song), but the song still makes some sense musically.  The same can’t be said for all of “Lulu.”
Most of “Lulu” follows this basic format: Reed handles most of the vocal duties with his introspective talk-singing, often with little sense of tempo or interest in saying something not nonsensical, while Metallica backs him up with repetitive riffs and drumming.
Frequently, the guitars will back off and Reed keeps on reciting his lyrics backed by the drums, or be used for more of a noisy atmospheric effect, as opposed to riffing or melody.  There are virtually no true guitar solos.
Hetfield occasionally appears to contribute short, stupid-sounding vocal melodies that sound like they were recorded on an old tape recorder in a garage.  Both he and Reed are really showing their age now.
“Cheat on Me” is probably the best example of all the excesses of this record, coming in at a whopping 11 minutes.  It takes a three minutes or so before anything really happens in the song.
The whole thing comes across as an inexperienced garage band coming on stage and drunkenly improvising on stage at open mic night at a local club.  Honestly, it would be a lot better if they had simply cut down all of their songs, or at least added more variety. As it is, the vast majority of the album’s songs blend together and suffer the same flaws.

The whole thing closes with “Junior Dad,” a 19-minute monster that actually features a pretty, sensible melody.  It only drags on for waaaaay too long.  There’s nothing with writing a 20 minute song–Rush’s “2112” was awesome–but you really have to do something with that 20 minutes.  “Junior Dad” is fine so far as its components go, but it didn’t need to be so long.
Like the Titanic, the boat that supposedly “couldn’t sink,” “Lulu” is a disaster that still inspires a genuine sense of awe. It is the product of two artists who are so established and so successful that they can literally do whatever they want with no fear of the consequences.  Like the infamous ship, it is the product of blissful ignorance on the part of its creators, who thought success was inevitable.
Still, like the Titanic, I can’t help but feel that “Lulu” could have, no, should have been more.  It could have succeeded, it just didn’t.
Maybe “Lulu” is too artistic and advanced for me to appreciate.  Maybe it just sucks.  I’m leaning towards the latter explanation for why I don’t like it, but both might be true.
The silver lining here for fans of either artist is, if you absolutely hate it, remember it’s not a 100 percent Metallica or 100 percent Reed album.  It’s a collaboration between both artists that doesn’t completely reflect either’s style.
Like so much modern art, “Lulu” might be enjoyed from afar, like a piece at an art exhibit.  But you probably won’t be listening to it in your car constantly; it’s not designed to be enjoyed on an everyday basis.  Listen to it and appreciate it for what is, but at your own discretion.
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