Every so often an album comes along that is so awful, it transcends badness itself, and begins to occupy a special place in the heart of all music fans, becoming an urban legend in its own right.
Bob Dylan’s infamous Self Portrait baffles, frustrates and transfixes fans to this day as they try to find some semblance of meaning or purpose its tangled mess of obstinate garbage. Lou Reed has himself contributed his own classic “so bad, it’s gone beyond the point of being ironically funny, moved beyond abysmal, and re-emerged as an awful artefact of perpetual bewilderment” LP, better known as Metal Machine Music. That legendary flop, like so many others, developed a cult following that eventually allowed Reed to, entirely un-ironically, play his “masterpiece” in full, in London, with elevated ticket prices.
As you’ve probably gathered by now Metallica and Lou Reed’s collaborative album Lulu is an atrocity. It’s a gnawing, plodding, turgid mess of cringe worthy couplets, monotonous riffage, and interminably long dirges. Surprisingly, and quite remarkably, however, that appears to be entirely by design.
While Lou Reed and Metallica certainly didn’t intend to make one of the legendary bad albums, and trust me that’s what this is, they did intend to make an ugly, grotesque, and thoroughly repulsive album. Lulu was originally centred around two expressionist plays by Frank Wedekind about an abused dancer but it quickly becomes an outpouring of loathing towards the female form.
The album is devoid of beauty, it’s purposely vulgar, it aims to distort convention and disgust with its imagery, proving to be one of those albums that is perfectly represented by its artwork. The warped, amputated, and fearful mannequin that adorns the album’s cover perfectly captures the warped vile vitriol that spits and splutters from Lou Reeds mouth.
The opening line sets the tone “I would cut my legs and tits off when I think of Boris Karloff” (that’s not nearly the worst forced rhyme on the album by the way). From there on in Reed switches between the male and female perspective as he runs through a range of brutally direct, depressive and purposely vulgar imagery: “Prickless lover”, “dry and spermless like a girl”, “a puny body and a tiny dick”, “the taste of your vulva, everything on it, the hair on your shoulder, the smell of your arm pit”, are just some of the words and phrases that stick in the mind.
In it’s own way Lulu, as a pure expression of vile disgust, and as a way of revelling in the grotesque, has seen Metallica and Lou Reed create a truly hideous object that shines a crude and abhorrent light on lust and the female form. Unfortunately, the execution of said album, is so hideously inept, that the grotesque is replaced by the hilarious, the dark and oppressive by the light and humorous, and the morbid with the unintentionally ironic. Rather a freak or an abrasive oddity, Lulu therefore becomes a right of passage. The kind of morosely bad album that fans will dare their friends to listen to for generations to come.
The perfect balance has been struck: Metallica have created an 87 minute musical abomination, a true joyless dirge, while Lou Reed’s vocal and lyrical performance is so bad that you could easily mistake the Velvet Underground legend for a jabbering geriatric who has somehow managed to escape his psychiatric hospital for the criminally unstable, and found his way into Metallica’s sound booth, presumably in his nightgown and slippers.
James Hetfield has already become a laughing stock for his gormlessly straight faced delivery of the line “I AM THE TABLE!”, but that pales in comparison next to Lou Reed’s piece de resistance: “I’d drop to my knees in a second, to salivate in your thighs, but I fall over” (type alone, simply cannot do that line justice).
Luckily for Reed, his blushes may be spared, “Frustration” doesn’t appear until the fifty minute mark, and by that point all bar the morbidly curious and chronically stoned will have deserted Lulu, and have begun the long and gruelling process of expunging it from their memory.
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