Lou Reed & Metallica aka Loutallica
31 October 2011
by Hugh Platt
The opening moments of Lulu certainly took me by surprise. Beginning with a surprisingly grandiose build-up, it’s not long before the wild guitar work of the album opener, ‘Hit The Lights’, heralds the arrival of a group of musicians clearly headed for big things. Following this up is the galloping pace of ‘The Four Horsemen’, which not only sets the tone for much of the album to come, but provides a sufficient platform for Kirk Hammett to display his admirable ability at making his six-string sing (even if it is over guitar lines plotted out by Dave Mustaine, the man he replaced). It’s countered nicely by the punkier approach adopted by ‘Motorbreath’, which…
….nope. Sorry, I can’t do it. I was gonna write a total dick-move review, where instead of analysing Lulu, I was going to write an entire review of Kill ‘Em All. I was planning on playing it totally straight, right up to the final line of the review, where I’d throw out some sneering final comment that listening to Metallica’s debut through nearly two times over would be a far better use of the 90-odd minutes you will spend on your first (and no doubt last) listen-through of Lulu. But I just can’t. Lulu is such an awful, flabby turd of an album, that even using a meta-joke instead of a review – and it’s not even a particularly good meta-joke to begin with – seems wasted on Lulu. I actually feel pretty bad on the meta-joke’s behalf for even considering using it for something as thickly ridiculous as Lulu in the first place.
You can go ahead and listen to all of Lulu right now over on the official Lou Reed / Metallica website, and no doubt by the time you read this review, most of you already will have done so. I’d advise just sticking to the 30-second samples, because not only will this save over an hour of your life, but you won’t gain any further insight into these songs by listening to their full, intended and overly-long “glory”. Experiencing the record in its rawest form becomes an exercise in wishful finger-crossing, with each slow-moving, turgid minute compounding the sense of failure you ever had for hoping that if you listen to just one more song, Hell, even one more minute, that somehow Metallica and Lou Reed might find some way to turn this record around.
In fact the opposite happens – the longer this album drags on for, the wider and more glaring its many, many (many) faults become. At no point does the lumbering, stilted tones of Lou Reed’s vocal delivery ever feel in sync with Metallica’s boisterous backing band pretence. James Hetfield and his comical repertoire of “hey-yeah-hair!”s remain neutered throughout, at best offering up pitiful Lou Reed-imitations, and at worst being left to bellow guff like the already much-parodied “I AM THE TABLE!” line from ‘The View’. Lars Ulrich even achieves the near impossible of managing to make his stickwork seem lazier than ever before, despite the multitude of studio tools that almost certainly were used to improve them. The guitar work of both Hetfield and Kirk Hammett is so tepid that it makes the rubbish dump riffs they palmed off on that Ja Rule collaboration seem positively energetic. The only person involved in this whole sorry affair who get a pass is Rob Trujillo, and then only because he has about as much say in what direction Metallica go in as I do. If you really need any further analysis of why Lulu fails as a record, go read Julian Marszarek’s analysis of Lulu over on The Quietus.
But the critical drubbing that Lulu is receiving – from both fans and critics - is unquestionably a good thing for Metallica. Why? Because Metallica’s fanbase so large and mindlessly loyal, that they will buy and continue to buy any record Metallica put their name to – St Anger sold over two million copies in the USA alone, after all. No matter how many poisonous words that are spilled over Lulu, it will still sell by the truckload. No, the only way to punish Metallica – and the only way to force them to making a passable record in the vein of Death Magnetic - is to hit them where they hurt, and deny them the currency they do crave: credibility.
As anyone who sat through Some Kind Of Monster will know, Metallica hunger for credibility with an intensity borne of nearly 30 years worth of feeling they’ve never been given the proper respect they deserve. No matter that they are one of the biggest bands in the world ever – that the grass is always greener on the other side was never more aptly demonstrated in those scenes where Hetfield and Ulrich bickered over the direction St Anger should take. The entire collaboration with Lou Reed is a giant exercise in ego gratification in itself. When this project started off, you can tell the parties involved really thought they were crafting a masterwork of the ages, a record that would transcend genre-politics and be seen by all as a brave new step in music. That’s why they embarked upon a press campaign talking up this record above and beyond even their own standards of hype.
Given that, the fact that the reaction of Lulu has been so profoundly and near-universally negative must’ve hurt Metallica’s egos something rotten. Apologists for the band are already trying to sidestep the fallout from Lulu by claiming it somehow isn’t a proper Metallica album, and I’ve even seen people making the flimsy excuse that this is a Lou Reed record that Metallica just happen to play on. Bullshit. Don’t give them this escape hatch – their name is given an equal billing on this sorry mess and they need to face up to the consequences of that. I’ve got little doubt that the St Anger backlash is what provoked Metallica into retreating into the arms of Rick Rubin and the mindset that led to Death Magnetic, and if the same can be achieved following Lulu, well, we might actually see something positive come out of this album after all.
There Is No Point Giving This A Mark/6
Sounds like: No.
Top tracks: No.