Sunday, March 16, 2014
Butterfly In the Jar
(The only occasion to date that two Big 4 bands have released records on the same day in North America. Megadeth outsold Metallica by 29,000 copies, but then again Lulu is not just Metallica, so ha ha, thwarted again, you soulless ginger prick.)
Yeah, Lulu is not a Metallica album. It's Metallica and that "Walk On the Wild Side" guy pairing up for a project that sent their respective fantasies into apoplectic fits and I'm somehow supposed to seek out a reason to avoid reviewing this?
Performing together at the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame's 25th Anniversary show in 2009 planted the seed. Initially, Lou thought it would be dandy to work out new renditions of his older, unreleased material with the world's most famous heavy metal act, but then honed in on songs he had composed for Lulu, a theatrical production of the Frank Wedekind plays Earth Spirit and Pandora's Box. These works feature mariticide, unrequited lesbian love, prostitution and Jack the fuckin' Ripper. All of which sounds too fascinating to be put (even partially) in the hands of modern day Metallica. But as Lars Ulrich said: "Lulu is almost like two languages. We have m-e-t-a-l in our name. But we can go fucking anywhere and do anything."
See? It's not an album, it's a fucking episode of Reading Rainbow!
"Brandenburg Gate"--Let's kick it off with some rehearsal! No no, put that pesky electricity away for now.
How to describe that feeling that shoots throughout my body approximately a minute into "Brandenburg Gate"? See, this high-fiber diet, low-calorie diet has multifarious benefits, but no small number of detriments as well. Several late nights during the week I'll be lying in bed, trying to entice sleep, but the solar plexus pull proves too great, and I find myself stumbling towards the kitchen. I enter the darkened area without bothering to fumble for the light switch--the refrigerator draws me to it with magnetic ease. I reach out a hand, grasp, pull…the light emanating from the interior of the appliance is nothing compared to the light in my eyes. A festival of digestibles rests on the shelves--cans and bottles of quenching liquids; tightly-wrapped dishes holding an array of meats, vegetables and sauces. All of it is immensely appealing. Any of it would satisfy my urge. But nothing quite so fully as that slice of red velvet cake hiding underneath some plastic. I grab it and bring it to my breast. I am one step closer to completion.
"SMALL TOWN GIIIRRRRLLLLL!"
"The View"--Lars, would you seriously with the cymbals?
Discussing the highs of the Lulu experience, Lou told Rolling Stone, "The drums are no joke." Lou, the drums are all the jokes. "Knock-knock" to "practical" to "poor taste ethnic." You, on the other paw? Golden. I adore Lou on "The View." His coffeehouse tone and delivery over the brick-brained chord pattern keeps me intrigued, even as James Hetfield tries to ruin it with his fantastical proclamations.
"Pumping Blood"--Chewie, hit the throttle to activate the hyperdrive 'cause kee-rist, this got weird quick.
Lou quavers out some winners: "Oh Jack I beseech thee." "I will swallow your sharpest cutter like a colored man's dick." Throughout time, women have said some odd things to bring their sex partner to orgasm.
The guitars here are pretty perfect--for the midsection of another song. The result here is what I feared it would be for the majority of the record: Lou Reed recites nonsense, Metallica goes CHUNK CHUNK CHUNK. Obviously Metallica didn't need to adopt the "Legatos Or Bust" mentality to make this oddball collabo work, but they definitely needed to know when and how to sound like more than just Lou Reed's backing band. Here, they sound like Lou Reed's backing band.
The drums, I swear…if Lars Ulrich were a waiter, he'd only refill half of your glass. I hope those wasps get him but good.
"Mistress Dread"--As I just bitched about how rote and "stock"--har har--the guit-fiddles on the last song sounded, so must I praise them here for taking no prisoners. If only they weren't an anomaly in the bigger picture!
The repetition makes me genuinely warm from laughter instead of boiling from rage and for that reason I recommend "Mistress Dread" for the next time you need a hilarious distraction (apply as needed).
Lulu wants a mouthful of spit and shit? Absolution via degradation, you say? Cool, 'cause I just got back from a secret rendezvous with the late-night menu at Taco Bell. I guess a crap is as good as a kiss to a filthy whore. Wait, am I being a gender traitor? I'm just saying, of the two of us, Lulu's odds of being found dead in a hotel room with her intestines draped over the headboard are far greater than mine.
"Iced Honey"--Why did Lou and Johnny Cash never collaborate? Two raconteurs, one masterpiece. Guaranteed.
The bad boys and their treasure map with the singed corners prove a bit much for Lou, who sounds in dire need of a straight line to a bench. If nothing else, really, the title is stupendous. Winnie the Pooh in a parka, look of unbearable anticipation on his precious ursine face. That's what I see.
"Cheat On Me"--Men adore a woman who care nothing for them beyond the occasional fleshly escape.
"I want lovers like the rain." No way, I want lovers like the snow--just lay there and look pretty.
"Frustration"--This one goes out to you, Metallica fans convinced your heroes have lost their friggin' marbles! This one goes out to you, Lou Reed fans convinced your hero is engaging in the most pathetic pandering possible!
I hate songs that tell me what and/or how to think and/or feel. I loathe songs that nail my thoughts and feelings to a "t." That's a violation of the creator-consumer trust. There needs to exist at all times a barrier of great tensile strength between us, Art. If you want to screw, and I want it too, fine. But let's get a sheet and a pair of scissors first.
"Lexicon of hate"--that's pretty metal. (You could sell it on Etsy.) "Puke my guts out"--that's pretty Metallica. Think back to when Jason Newsted had just left, James Hetfield was seeking professionals to assist in the fight with his demons, and the future of the band was in doubt. All of that uncertainty was like a virus churning in the gut of Metallica. The only way to get better was to vomit all the bad stuff out. And that vomit…was St. Anger. Subsequent to this purgative puke, Death Magnetic showed the band at renewed health.
Lou Reed, you astute bastard.
"Little Dog"--Banana pudding without vanilla wafers. Is what this is.
"Dragon"--Some rabidly brain-deficient members of the Metallica famileeh sent Lou Reed threats of violence for aiding and abetting in the horrendous crime of Lulu. Did they not realize that the man they were promising to pummel had, decades prior, made himself persona non grata in the mainstream music scene for daring to release the wordless feedback-fest known as Metal Machine Music at the height of his commercial success? Poor pitiful creatures, indeed.
"Opium white bathrobe"? Dude, I used that in a Thurston Moore parody poem years ago!
"Junior Dad"--It is possible to make a good nineteen-minute song. It has been done.
With Vangelis composing the guitars, apparently, Lou proceeds to relay the desultory tale of a boy who grew up hating his father only to become like his father as he progressed deeper and deeper into adulthood. Thus, a "Junior Dad." (James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett were apparently brought to tears in the studio.) My father died several years ago, and this didn't make me cry. Or even sniffle. I suppose it wasn't meant to, but I'd love to hear a song by a female artist outlining the myriad of depressing, unsavory ways she's becoming just like her tormented father. No, wait…probably I wouldn't love to hear that.
Lulu is nowhere near the self-indulgent disaster it had the potential to be (and that some people insist is is), but nor would I call it a true success. Lars Ulrich claimed, "This makes …And Justice For All sound like the first Ramones album." The best parts of Lulu can hang with some of the better moments on Justice, but no individual song (okay, maybe the agonizingly delightful "Mistress Dread") is better than that albums nadir. Likewise, the worst parts of Lulu make a Ramones chopped and screwed album sound like a fantastic idea, could some high-off-his-ass motherfucker in Texas please get on that one posthaste?
Accessibility is overrated when the masses are such opiate-laced asses, but so is experimentation. Too often here band and singer sounded at loggerheads. Rather than cite that as a reason to say, "Fuck this album with a long rusty thing," I'll concede that if Lou Reed and Metallica had decided to do a true collaboration right there in the studio, with fresh lyrics and music, pushing and pulling, acting and reacting, giving and taking, well, the results could have been highly enjoyable.
By all means--innovate the model. Experiment on the specimen. Explore the realm. Deviate from the well-worn path. Just don't forget to poke some holes and let that beautiful thing breathe, eh?