December 7, 2011 – 4:33 pm

On Lulu, Lou Reed’s new team-up with Metallica, the former VU man appears to have lost his sense of cinema and one of the album’s tracks, Frustration, pretty much sums up the listening experience. Philip Cheah reviews.

As much as any fan would like to adore Lulu (Warner Bros/Vertigo), this new work by Lou Reed and Metallica, no amount of fan loyalty can stomach this for long.

Inspired by the Lulu plays (Earth Spirit and Pandora’s Box) written by Munich playwright Frank Wedekind in the late 19th and early 20th century, the story about a stripper who rises up the social ladder only to fall from grace and end up a prostitute, had all of Wedekind’s themes about sexual behavior, violence and social hypocrisy. As he once said: “Search fearlessly for every sin, for out of sin comes joy.” It’s not so far away from Lou Reed’s world of walking on the wild side.

Yet the comparisons end there. For while Reed’s spirit is strong (as he’s still able to find the larger themes), his flesh is weak (this album features some of his worst monotone vocals).

When listening to Lulu, one immediately thinks of Reed’s classic Velvet Underground works such as Venus in Furs or The Gift, some of the most sexually-menacing songs that you can ever hear.

Then on the opening track, Brandenburg Gate, Reed’s lyrics go like this: “I would cut my legs and tits off/When I think of Boris Karloff and Kinski/In the dark of the moon/It made me dream of Nosferatu/Trapped on the isle of Doctor Moreau/Oh wouldn’t it be lovely/I was thinking Peter Lorre/When things got pretty gory as I/Crossed to the Brandenburg Gate… I dreamt of breezes going through the trees/And stars were still illumed.”

Now just compare that to Venus in Furs: “A thousand dreams that would awake me/Different colors made of tears/Kiss the boot of shiny, shiny leather/Shiny leather in the dark/Tongue of thongs, the belt that does await you/Strike, dear mistress, and cure his heart.”

The present Reed has lost his sense of cinema and he needs to invoke it by quoting names. In contrast, the imagery in Venus in Furs is so rich that the violence is poetic at the same time. Fillers such as Iced Honey don’t help much. And Frustration pretty much describes the listening experience.

It’s not until the final cut, the 19-minute Junior Dad, when some chemistry between Reed and Metallica forms. The long droning instrumental sequence dissipates the claustrophobia of the opposing styles of Reed and Metallica, and the music finally breathes.

Reed’s metallic sound has seen better days in 1974 when Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal showed that the glam metal of Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter matches Reed’s irony better than the straight thrash metal of Metallica.

Ain’t it ironic that when Metal Machine Music (1975) came out, it was so misunderstood that it ended up in the cut-out discount bins. Lulu by contrast, is coming out at the tail end of the music industry’s physical product line. It comes as a special poster tube edition at US$170 or as a CD book edition at US$150. No way are these gonna end up in the US$1 cut-out discount bin. As the song Frustration goes: “To be dry and spermless like a girl/I want so much to hurt you.” (3)

  1. 12 Responses to “WALKING ON THE WRONG SIDE”

  2. That about sums it up. I listen to the 30 second samples on Soundcloud and it was easily enough.

    I read Lou ranting obnoxiously at a reporter for saying he ‘used to be’ a fan. How can there be current fans for this mess? His voice went a couple of decades ago.

    As for Metallica– remember Napster? Why not download and delete it it?

    By Jonathan on Dec 7, 2011

  3. AWFUL! What a waste of time for everyone (including the buying public). The effort involved in making this crap should had been spent far better than it was.

    By datdemdar on Dec 8, 2011

  4. I listened to the preview track “The View” online - that was enough for me. I LOVE Lou but this is a pile of steaming manure. Epic FAIL.

    By radiocitizen on Dec 8, 2011

  5. I recall the reviews of Berlin and have a sense of Deja’ Vu but from what I’ve listed to so far it’s going to take some time at least if not some sort of life changing event before I find myself playing this on any regular basis. But I do hope for a repeat of Berlin in that 20 to 30 years from now (if we still have technology and aren’t just trying to survive) LuLu will be hailed as another Lou master piece years ahead of it’s time !

    By Revolutionarybum on Dec 8, 2011

  6. It’s so fun to dis artist risk taking, isn’t it? It’s also the easiest sport in the world. Who said Lou Reed has to care if he retains someone else’s interpretation of his sense of cinema? He sure doesn’t, and that’s precisely what makes him an artist and the observer not one.

    I’m thankful he’s still out there experimenting with complete disregard for the conventional. The world needs a hell of a lot more of it.

    Are his lyrics on Lulu plainly vulgar compared to the deftness of much of his previous work? Yes. Could he have chosen a less emotionally supple support team than the leaden, rangeless Metallica? No. And that’s great, because both precisely suit the subject matter.

    Kudos, Lou. That the prevailing attitude is a strong repulsion to Lulu is evidence that it resonates. And that’s a good thing.

    Hate it, love it, ignore it, whatever. Embrace the fact that it’s being here keeps life interesting.

    By kingpossum on Dec 9, 2011

  7. I think you may be mistaken, calling Lulu a “stripper”. Burlesque dancer, maybe, but never in the plays does she take it all off, from what I remember.

    I like the album: http://originalhipster.net/2011/12/05/the-loutallica-polemic-why-lulu-is-not-a-lulu/

    By Linda Leseman on Dec 9, 2011

  8. P.S. kingpossum - Totally agree with you.

    By Linda Leseman on Dec 9, 2011

  9. Im sure time will change it’s cruel reviews!

    By Happy Jap on Dec 10, 2011

  10. Anti-climatic… take 2 sets of legends and put them together and you’ll get this as “art”… All involved are multi-millionaires. Not like they have to “eat” from this release. I’m sure it’s an illegal download classic, since who would shell out real money for this? In the immortal words of Russell Brand “Why don’t you go and sue Napster you little Danish tw*t!” Lulu = “Forgotten… and the Unforgiven”. Next.

    By Woodstock on Dec 12, 2011

  11. I’m sorry, but I used to love Lou Reed. “Berlin” is a classic and several other albums are very good or excellent, up to “Songs for Drella,” and the Velvet’s work is so brilliant and seminal I can’t start to describe it.

    Built Lou hasn’t just lost his sense of cinema (what ever that might be, he has lost the ability to make good music or ’sing’ or write lyrics.

    OK he is experimenting, but experiments often fail. I wanted to like “Lulu” but I don’t. Lou should have retired years ago.

    By Jonathan on Dec 14, 2011

  12. Lulu might not be the penultimate album of the year but it is definitely one of the best in 2011. Perhaps if one will to use the tired old rock axioms to judge the album, it will fall terribly flat but hey, this is the 2nd decade of the 21st century so old fogeys please move aside… It is almost up there with the slew of avant rock and form-destroying groups like Harry Pussy, Fushitsusha, The Dead C, Whitehouse/Cut Hands, Skullflower/Hototogisu, Billy Bao, Ground Zero, early Boredoms and Sudden Infant. Metallica never sound so inspired and old Lou, this might not be his best but he sure beats all in the mainstream music industry today and some.

    By psychmetalfreak on Dec 16, 2011

  13. Horrible, horrible music with horrible production. Metallica does their usual banging-away and Lou sounds awful. How can anyone say that this runs counter to the music “mainstream” when everything about this album screams, “We wanna be mainstream!” Awful. Thank god I illegally downloaded it. My computer spit it out.

    By GG Allin on Mar 25, 2012

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