Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lou Reed and Metallica Make Bad Music, Great Comedy With 'The View'

Posted By on Thu, Sep 29, 2011 at 12:21 PM

From The Department of Low-Hanging Fruit, in conjunction with The Department of Can’t Resist: There isn’t enough snark in the blogosphere to describe how hilarious the first track to drop off the Lou Reed/Metallica record is. With these web waters so chummed with snark bait, how can a bloodthirsty blogger such as myself not bite, right?

If you’ve seen documentarians Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofski’s unflinchingly candid and gut-bustingly embarrassing look into two-and-a-half years in the life of Metallica, Some Kind of Monster, then, justifiably, you all know that — even since their garage days — the once black-hearted, all-killer, up-ass-reaming metal masters aren’t the most lightning-sharp puppeteers in the pantheon of mock ’n’ roll. And if you haven’t seen Monster, you really should. You really, really fucking should — the filmmakers did a crazy good job and making Charlize Theron look like James Hetfield. It’s weird.

And the humble willingness of the band’s members — American and Danish alike — to submit themselves to Berlinger and Sinofki’s fierce commitment to keeping their teary-eyed therapy sessions, sanctimonious anger mismanagement, frantic-fourth-graders-fighting-over-flag-football-boundaries, rehearsal-room rows, Hawaiian shirts and other babyish details of their artisic-death-determining, bourgeois lifestyles off the cutting-room floor is commendable.

But was it all just an act?

Never forget, we are talking about a band that skyrocketed to stadium rock’s highest echelons with an album cover that aped a Spinal Tap gag.

“The View” — the first full track (embedded above, and yes, of course it’s terrible) to emerge from Lulu’s (i.e., Lou Reed & Metallica, i.e., “Loutallica”) full-length, self-titled debut premiered Tuesday on YouTube, and I’ll admit, it’s really got me re-evaluating Metallica’s acumen. Seriously, like, not even joking. The track has left me wondering if Ulrich, Hetfield and Hammett are perhaps much sharper, more meme-savvy tools than a campaign against file-sharing gives them credit for — because this awkward, aesthetically inert, genre-crossing, cross-generational head-scratcher is so ripe for parody, so tailor-made for bloggers and Internet memeiacs to riff on, that it just has to be a joke. It has to be.

Heavy metals answer to Tony Clifton?
  • Heavy metal's answer to Tony Clifton?
And as a joke, Lulu is brilliant. Ever since realizing news of “Loutallica” wasn’t attributable to an Onion article, music bloggers have had a field day anticipating the end product of this odd-couple pairing. And now we know, the result is so unequivocally bad and inconceivably unlistenable — at least in any earnest context — that one cannot help but hazard that this whole to-do is a wholly intentional ploy for attention. Like, the same kind of attention a schizophrenic hobo commands (and gets) upon sucking down a box of wine and scaling of radio tower to hurl his or her worldview at onlookers and news cameras, before hurling him or herself off the ledge and into the great beyond.

Which is fitting, considering how Lou Reed playing Nico to Metallica’s re-loaded Velvet Underground is basically the sound of a schizophrenic hobo wino rambling to himself about ex-wives and leching over nubile temptresses within earshot of Lars, Kirk and The Crab Walker shedding sludgy, (fucking) stock Rock-as-in-Bob riffs with intermittent bursts of Papa Het barking orders at his children, or training his hunting hounds … or something.

There are only two ways to enjoy this on a musical level. The first is to appreciate it as a bewilderingly brilliant symphony of harmonic hilarity. The second is to play the role of pretentious contrarian (a la David Fricke) and proactively decide it’s good on warped, subconscious principal, before going in. But the important thing to note is that neither of those distinctions involve being either a Metallica or a Lou Reed fan.

Given Reed’s dead-pan speak-singing set against the grinding riffage, for your garden-variety metalhead the Lulu listening experience is gonna be as unfulfilling as sitting through a classroom science lecture while stealth-bumping Metallica's Load on the world’s weakest pair of earbuds. And for the archetypal art-rock enthusiast, not even this — experimental as it may be — is enough to silence scoffs.

Brian Eno once famously mused, “Only 5,000 people ever bought a Velvet Underground record, but every single one of them started a band.”

Yeah, and none of those bands — Roxy Music, Pixies, Bowie, et al. — sounded like fucking Lulu. And none of them serenaded us — as Reed does on “The View” — with punch-drunk, punch-worthy lyrical punchlines like “The coldness of most beauties is a challenge that our youth must quickly conquer,” or “I wanna see your suicide,” or my personal favorite, “I want you on the floor and in a coffin / Your soul shaking / I wanna have you doubting every meaning you’ve amassed like a fortune / Or throw it away for worship of someone who actively despises you.”

And then there’s me. I kinda love this track. It’s so fucking stupid and misguided — like a mangy, three-legged, little lost puppy dog on a futile duck hunt. But then you take the tail-wagger in and it pisses on your record collection and claws open your waterbed. In other words, Lulu’s existence makes my heart smile, but I hope I never have to hear it more than once. Especially given the cringe factor of Hetfield — in spot-on self-caricature — barking out a chorus (?) of declaratives that that goes something along the lines of: "Eyyyye am the vee-uuuu / I am the the table / I am all this / I am the ROOT! / The progress-ahh / Thee aww-greh-sore / I am the table / I am the 10 stories / EYYYYE EM the TAY-BULLLLL / EYE EM / EYE EM (x3) / EYE EHHHHHHMMM-AHH."

Oh, and in case there’s any doubt that Lulu is Metallica’s well-considered, memesmerizing attempt at “Jazz Odyssey” meets Saucy Jack, keep in mind that it’s also (NO SURPRISE!) a concept album. And they’re about as subtle as Pete Townshend doing windmills behind a pinball machine in letting you know it. The “View” video even opens with the following expository text:

Over 100 years ago, a German visionary named Frank Wedekind wrote a collection of plays about a tempestuous woman name Lulu who was both a muse and a mystery. A century later, the stories would inspire Lou Reed and Metallica to Create “Lulu,” a musical narrative of the provocative plays


Anyway, Metallica, they’re some crafty bastards. And as far as Lou Reed’s culpability in this whole, uh, project goes, I’m guessing he just didn’t have anything better to do with himself. Or maybe he just wanted one of Lars’ Basquiats and he's the real crafty bastard. Mankind may never know.

Now, speaking of tried and true snark bait — Juggalos, how do they work? (Stale joke?) Some of you might have drawn the obvious comparison between Lulu’s what-the-fuck-ed-ness factor and the insanity of the recent Jack White/JEFF the Brotherhood/Insane Clown Posse collab — which, IMHO, was also big on the weird-for-weirdness’s-sake kitsch factor.

The difference there, though, is that even beyond the neighborly, Detroit connection between J-Dubs and duo Shaggy J-Dope, there is huge parallel you can draw between ICP’s Psychopathic Records and Third Man Records: Both thrive on a rather shrewd, niche-oriented, direct-to-fan business model that’s solvent outside the volatile economics of the greater music industry.

Basically Psychopathic is Third Man in a parallel dimension devoid of listenable, musical artistry and college graduates — Psychopathic caters to cultivated audience of Juggalos, while Third Man caters to a cultivated audience of Jackalos. And if you're one of the many who sees the former’s counter-culture as a Shangri-larious bottomless pit of laughs, then I recommend feasting your eyes (and especially your ears) on American Juggalo — the brand-spankin'-new, short documentary posted below.

Directed by Sean Dunne (Stray Dawg), Juggalo is essentially Heavy Metal Parking Lot Goes to The Gathering of the Juggalos. The film captures interviews, face-paint put-ons and marathon whippet indulgences from the campgrounds of Psychopathic’s answer to Bonnaroo. Check it out! Woop! Woop!

Oh, and Lulu by Lulu drops Nov. 1. Who wants to place bets on how many copies it will sell? The point spread is less copies than the last Metallica record and more copies than the last Lou Reed record.

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