Some music is hated.
There is music that is bad – meritless, unoriginal, unlistenable claptrap bad – but there exists much bad music that is beloved.
But some music is genuinely hated.
Like this “Lulu” album thing I’ve been reading about. It is a brand spanking new collaboration between Lou Reed and Metallica. A concept album, no less. A double-length concept album about self-loathing, self-abuse, and assorted miseries.
For the past month or so, the internet has been abuzz about “Lulu.” “Lulu” is hated. It was hated before anyone’d heard a note of it. It is hated on principle. It is hated viscerally. When somebody gets indigestion or loses the big account at work, they blame “Lulu.” They blame “Lulu,” and then they come back home and they get on Amazon and they kick it in the teeth a few more times.
“Lulu” has transformed negative record reviewing into a full-contact competitive sport.
“Metallica finally found a way to keep people from illegally downloading their music,” someone over here says.
“Lulu is a complete failure on every tangible and intangible level of its existence,” says this review.
“Reed mutter[s] the title over and over as if he was rudely woken up and shoved in front of a live microphone,” says this one over here.
And Pitchfork – oh, dear hipster Pitchfork – says “Lulu” has one too many good moments to be the worst album of all time, thus failing even as a failure.
Yeah, I’ve listened to “Lulu.” I even bought “Lulu.” Paid money for it. Online, of course: There was no way I was going to be seen walking up to a cash register with that thing.
Now, I should tell you, I am a fan of Lou Reed. I have listened to Lou Reed all of my life.
I am a fan of how unlikable he is. How difficult. Inconsistent.
I am a fan of his ugly imagery.
I am even fan of his clunky lyrics. My favorite Lou Reed album ever begins with the line, “Life’s like a mayonnaise soda.” That’s pretty clunky!
But as best as I can discern, when it comes to “Lulu,” the criticism centers around only about four things:
1. The awkward mismatch between Lou Reed and Metallica;
2. The songs (both lyrics and melodies);
3. The musicianship; and
4. The vocals.
Other than that, there does not seem to be much trouble with “Lulu,” really. Just those four minor things.
|Damn you to Hell, Hal Willner.|
Me, I blame Hal Willner. He produced “Lulu.” Hal Willner is a terrible producer. Just awful.
For years now, Hal Willner has produced novelty projects that look great on paper but sound awful in execution.
Like this: The last time Hal Willner produced a Lou Reed album, it turned out to be a concept album about Edgar Allen Poe that included actor Steve Buscemi doing a sleazy lounge act. And it sounds even worse than what you’d imagine.
The typical Hal Willner production uses this sort of reasoning: “Hey! Wouldn’t it be weird if we released an album of Leonard Cohen singing Limp Bizkit songs?”
So Hal Willner projects are bad. They are bad, but they are not normally hated.
Hal Willner projects really ought to be hated. I mean, divine justice and all that jazz…
The thing is, on “Lulu,” Lou Reed himself does okay. I mean, he does as well as can be expected. Maybe even better than can be expected. The guy is one hundred and seventy-four years old. I have seen surprisingly compelling evidence that Lou Reed’s major organ systems dissolved back in 1971. It seems probable that he is a zombie.
But despite that, Lou Reed bolts past the starting gate on “Lulu” in full clunky Lou Reed mode, moaning, “I would cut my legs and tits off / When I think of Boris Karloff.”
That’s pretty clunky! That’s Lou Reed!
In other places, “Lulu” distinguishes itself as the queasy Beatnik feel-bad album of the season. Like on “Dragon,” where he keeps repeating something about a “Kotex jukebox.” Or on “Pumping Blood,” where he whines, “I will swallow your sharpest cutter / Like a colored man’s dick.”
Oh. Yeah. I forgot to mention before: “Lulu” is mostly sung in first person from the perspective of a woman. Awkward…
I would imagine all this makes “Lulu” look pretty awful to anyone who did not already think “Lulu” was pretty awful. And don’t get me wrong: “Lulu” is pretty awful. But what’s with all this hatred? Can’t we all just get along?
The real problem with “Lulu” – other than Hal Willner and the Kotex jukebox thing and Lou Reed’s zombie state and the first person feminine perspective and the aimless songs averaging about nine minutes a piece – is Metallica. And it’s not even Metallica so much as it is James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, specifically.
James and Lars are running around right now – even as I type these words – bragging to the music press that “Lulu” is chock full of first studio takes. I believe them. It sounds like first studio takes. Hetfield’s backing vocals on “Lulu” make Lou Reed’s voice sound like Pavarotti or Edith Piaf or Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan in comparison. And Lars Ulrich is in beginner-league drumfills-a-go-go mode every time the album lurches into ad-libbed abstractness, which is quite a lot.
|Lou Reed at the age of 12.|
Mostly, though, it comes down to this: Lou Reed is not for everyone. In fact, Lou Reed might not be for anyone. His discography is best appreciated in theory and not actually experienced, like a secret Venus de Milo sculpted from bovine excrement.
But right now, we’re seeing Metallica fans – all 200 million of them – bitching about a Lou Reed collaboration.
And that is a bit like JK Rowling and William Burroughs writing a novel together and then unleashing Rowling fans to complain about how many ellipses there are… and erotic hangings… and Johnny waking up in Ali’s body… It’s like a hypothetical David Lynch-directed “Twilight” movie being attacked by 14-year old girls for having a non-linear plot.
So I stand alone. Over here.
Yes, me. Right here. When it comes to “Lulu,” I will stand alone. I will spit into the wind. I will defy your conventional wisdom.
I will read the reviews… Listen to the album again…
And I will remain defiant.
Against all odds and against all logic and against good taste and better judgment, I will defiantly award Lou Reed and Metallica’s “Lulu” album an insane TWO WHOLE STARS (out of a possible five).
And that’s a solid D grade.
Yeah, I said it.
Don’t be a hater.