Art Imitating Music

I’ve finally checked out Lou Lou, Loutallica, or whatever you want to call it (actual title: ‘Lulu’)- the ‘stranger than fiction’ collaboration between Metallica and Lou Reed. I’ve been hearing what everyone’s been saying about the album- they don’t like it.

Myself? With the exception of a few parts (the riff on track 2, ‘The View,’ for example), upon first listen, I don’t really like it either. But I confess to being fascinated by it.

Now before we go any further, let me just say how much respect I have for the members of Metallica, despite not always agreeing with every group decision. My public comments on the band do not always go over well with their fans, who tend to only see me as a guy from another metal band. But I’m honestly trying to speak purely as a listener and observer, so pretend I’m a journalist for one moment.

Here is one way to view ‘Lulu:’ as an experiment in ‘phenomenology’ much like the Andre The Giant sticker campaign by artist Shepard Fairey. It leaves you asking questions like What is it? Is it cool? Are we just not getting it? Who knows? Either way, it’s got everyone talking and challenging their thinking.

Another way to view Lulu is the type of album that very few musical acts get to do- the 1% or less who reach that highest level, commercially and financially. These albums can only be done by acts who maintain their own creative control and feel the artistic impulses to challenge the very system that put them where they are. With Metallica’s legacy secured, you can say they’ve earned the right to have a little fun and prove that they can do whatever the fuck they want to, as long as it’s done strategically (very wise that an ‘official’ Metallica album is planned, soon to follow).

And now I’ll speak as a fellow musician: As part of the other 99% – far from wealthy, but grateful to have carved out a comfortable living based solely on playing and composing- I honestly don’t know what it’s like to be in that kind of top tier position. I can only imagine the artistic inclinations I might feel if I were. So it feels only fair to withhold judgement as a musician and place ‘Lulu’ in a proper historical context, with other iconic artists who have thrown their fans for a loop (in some cases, quite literally, as you’ll see).

In 1968, John Lennon, still a Beatle and arguably the most towering figure in popular music and culture, collaborated with avant-garde conceptual artist Yoko Ono (his future wife) to release ‘Unfinished Music No.1: Two Virgins.‘ The album was unlike any other by a rock artist at the time: it consisted of tape loops, instrumental noises, random conversation and other indecipherable sounds, almost tribal in nature, with no song structure, chords or melody; a pure sonic collage. The album’s shock value was enhanced by its cover art, which included full frontal photos of John and Yoko, stark naked.

In the mid-70’s, a similarly defiant recording- Lou Reed’s own feedback fest, a loop layered, distorted enhanced by various tape speeds, brought to mind a traffic jam on mars. It was entitled “Metal Machine Music.” This album cost Reed, the leader of the hugely successful Velvet Underground, many fans and much of his credibility. Decades later, ‘Metal Machine Music’ would be considered groundbreaking and influential, especially among more ambient, noise influenced musicians such as Sonic Youth and Nine Inch Nails .

One of the most influential, respected and commercially successful jazz guitarists of our time (and a personal hero of mine), Pat Metheny, did his own aggressive, loop-driven ‘noise’ album in the mid- 90’s, one which critics have demolished and fans have begged him to disown: ‘Zero Tolerance For Silence.’ In fairness, this album is not without its share of discernible melodies, but they are far from what fans had come to know from Pat Metheny’s albums- flawlessly executed and polished- it sounds more like something you’d expect from Keith Richards on acid.

Before all of that, a similar statement had been made in the classical world, using the complete opposite approach. It was famously created by composer/pianist John Cage (a frequent collaborator of Yoko Ono’s), who released “4:33,” a ‘piece’ which consists of nothing but four minutes and thirty three seconds of silence. That’s right- a musical composition that consists of no music.

Obviously, Lulu differs from these earlier projects in a couple senses: 1 it consists of distinguishable musical compositions. 2 It is not a revolt against the artist’s established sound- Metallica is playing riffs that are ‘Metallica’ like (at least in the post-thrash ‘millennial’ Metallica sense), and Lou Reed’s Shatner-esque recitations of lyrics inspired by a 19th century German impressionistic play sound Lou Reed-like enough. But compared to what fans expect from a recording with the name ‘Metallica’ on the cover, it’s as radical a departure as any of these other albums.

Lulu is to be taken as a modern art project, not a ‘Metallica album.’ And while it is difficult to find two entities with less in common than heavy metal and modern art, there is a member of Metallica who clearly defies this, who represents a common link between Motorhead and MOMA: Lars Ulrich.

An art based conversation I had with Lars backstage at VH1Classic’s That Metal Show, where I had the honor to appear with him as guest guitarist on the season 8 Finale, (Full Episode Here) confirmed something I’ve long suspected: Lars Ulrich is first and foremost, an artist. Although his public persona focuses on him being the drummer/founder of the mighty metal titans, offstage, he exists as much in the art world as the metal world; an expert with a keen eye, knowledge and awareness that would rival more stereotypical connoisseurs of paint and sculpture. That Lars would be interested in a collaboration with Lou Reed is not surprising in the least. Lars made headlines for amassing a healthy collection of paintings by the late Jean-Michel Basquiat, a protege of pop-art pioneer Andy Warhol. Lou Reed, as the leader of the Velvet Underground, was managed by none other than Warhol himself.

Lulu, in a strange way, represents Metallica’s own version of ‘Metal Machine Music,’ the title of which is a link in the puzzle, only enhancing the art factor of the whole project.

I predict the next Metallica record will be a big sigh of relief to fans, just as Lennon, Reed and Metheny all returned to a sound that was more familiar to their fans and Cage returned to creating actual sound. No, it won’t be the return of their ‘Master Of Puppets’ era sound that some are always clamering for, but it will be along the lines of the acceptable ‘Death Magnetic’ perhaps even stronger, as the band is building off a very healthy period in its career.

Projects like ‘Lulu’ exist to challenge the norm and can only be pulled off by mega-successful acts at the top of their genre with a heightened artistic awareness. The are enjoyable and admirable purely as phenomena to be pondered, observed and discussed rather than listened to. They leave hardcore fans horrified at worst, scratching their heads at best.

‘Two Virgins,’ ‘Metal Machine Music,’ ‘Zero Tolerance For Silence,’ ‘4:33’ and now ‘Lulu.’ Important career milestones? Absolutely. Must have recordings for hardcore collectors? Without a doubt. Worth repeating listenings? Absolutely not.

So is Lulu a success? That depends how you define it.

As a ‘Metallica album,’ especially when compared to the classic ‘Ride The Lightning’ and ‘Master Of Puppets,’ it seems to be generally agreed upon that it doesn’t belong in the same bin. The sales figures already can’t compete with the rest of the catalog. In fact, as this is being written, there is news that Lulu has slipped off the Billboard 200 after just a few weeks- unheard of for Metallica.

But when compared to the work of artists like Warhol, Shepard Fairey and others, as well as the level of the aforementioned albums by Lennon/Ono, Reed, Metheny and Cage, Lulu makes sense; a work of to be appreciated like an odd installation in an art museum, one which you stop to look at but probably wouldn’t keep in your own house, unless you have eccentric tastes. It’s modern art removed from the museum and placed out in the world via a previously unimaginable combination of elements.

Think about it: Lou Reed and the world’s biggest heavy metal band get together, bond over German expressionism, create an album that is difficult to digest and release it to the world? If that’s not art, I don’t know what is.

189 Responses to Art Imitating Music

  1. Very well put Alex, although I sometimes refer to these types of projects as pseudo-intelectuals. But as you said, if you can afford it, why not do it just for the sake of it.

    • I changed the ending, after someone wisely pointed out- it's 'expressionism' not 'impressionism.'  (I knew this- it was very late after all day writing session).

      Hey…don't you mean in “lieu lieu' of having to list to it yourself? ; )

      • Haha, yes indeed.

        No, actually, I *should* listen to it myself. I guess I have to hear what all the fuss is about. To be entirely honest, I’d given up caring about Metallica as a teenager (when Load came out). While listening to the old Metallica records (just broke out Ride the Lightning for the first time in years today) is like climbing under a warm blanket or something—cozy and nice because of it’s familiarity—they just stopped producing music that spoke to me at all. But the idea that in this position they would produce this kind of record isn’t surprising to me at all. I thought your examples were really great, actually, because these guys can literally just do whatever they want artistically because they’re economically independent and they can do whatever they want.

        But in a sense, it puts into perspective how cool it is that guys like John Zorn and David Byrne and Brian Eno have been making such crazy, (at times) hard to consume shit despite not being the richest rockstars in the world. And that stuff is actually (gasp) quality music or ideas that people want to come back.

  2. Professor Skolnick, This was as well-researched and well-written as a peer-reviewed journal article. Sometimes we listen as fans, and sometimes we listen as people who are trying to make sense of this world of music. I am glad you were able to explore both sides. Thanks for putting this into context. And I look forward to the day when you have risen to the 1% of musicians who feel the freedom to “do whatever the fuck they want.”

    • It's great to be able to share my ideas with you and others. I try to separate myself from the expectations anyone my have and look at things objectively. Glad its appreciated.

  3. Well written blog post Alex.  I agree with all of it.  Personally I have not purchased the album but heard some clips on YouTube like everyone else has.  As a Metallica fan, I am disappointed.  But well, at least Metallica is a metal band that has come out of their comfort zone at times (St. Anger comes to mind especially).  As a music fan, its an interesting listen but overall I just can't get into it.  Here's to hoping that the next Metallica album will blow us all away.

    • I confess: I haven't purchased the album either! But I did listen when it was streaming- that was all I needed to hear. But I think the grasping of this work goes beyond hearing. And it's just a hunch, but I think the next Metallica album is going to be great.

      • Yeah even though I like Metallica, I can't bring myself to purchase an album that well, I just do not care for. Streaming is all that is necessary for this album to be honest. Hoping you're right about the new Metallica album.  But, to be honest, Im looking forward to hearing the new Testament when it releases. 😉  Cheers.

      • Listening to “Death Magnetic” having a lot of similarities between their classic albums of the 80s, but with something new and refreshing…and then hearing bits and pieces of the brilliance in parts of the music of Lulu…along with their 4 previously unreleased tracks from the DM sessions, especially “Rebel of Babylon” which sounds so much like it came from “Master of Puppets” but with a new direction and something different and unique to it…

        I too believe that Metallica still has “IT” and we will be blown away by the next Metallica record!  Like you said earlier, it probably will expand on what they were doing with Death Magnetic, which was a great album!  But, I think that we will see some songs that sound more in the vein of their classic sound, and getting more “back to the roots” so to speak, but also going above and beyond and offering something new and refreshing, since with Lulu, they weren’t afraid to go outside their comfort zone, not overanalyze the music and just go with it.  They also let go of their need to control and keep those artistic moments of brilliance and not mess with it so to speak.

        I can’t wait!  Listen to “Rebel of Babylon” for a taste of what I think is to come from Metallica on their next album!  

        What are your thoughts on that Alex?  I would love to hear it!  By the way, I love your work in Testament, especially the lead work you displayed on “Return to Serenity”!! Can’t wait to hear Testament’s new album!

        The mid-point of one of Metallica’s new songs “Just a Bullet Away” actually reminds me of just that!  Very old school sounding.  So, seems like there are hints of classic Metallica that shine through here and there with their Death Magnetic material.  Hence, why I think their next album is going to be a classic and up their with the likes of dare I say it, Puppets and Justice!

  4. Some folks believe that “art” is “that which is done by an artist”.  Sounds self-referential but it isn't.  These folks look at art as an extension of artistic vision manifest by the act of the artist defining it as art.  A piece of driftwood on the beach, for example, is not art.  If Yoko Ono picks it up and sets it back down it becomes art.  If she whacks you in the head it is performance art.  When people talk about art like this they often suggest that art is art whether you like it or not, and that the manifestation of the artistic vision is valuable in itself and cannot be denigrated by criticism.

    There is a part of me that is a consumer of music, a fan.  That part of me recognizes that whether something is or is not art does not make one whit of difference when I decide what I am going to spend my money on and, more importantly, how I am going to spend my precious free time.  When I put on an album and listen to it I am never going to get that time back. I could have been listening to Rush or the AST, or the Penguin Cafe Orchestra or any of a thousand other bands.  Those bands are producing music that makes me want to listen, that draws me in.  That bring together technical, compositional, and emotional talent so that the listening experience is rich and fulfilling.

    Nobody in their right mind would look at Lulu and think they need
    to crack a Pabst Blue Ribbon and loosen the top button on their Levis
    and settle in for a good listen.  If you look at it as a consumer of music, the Lulu project may be art but it definitely is self-indulgent.  That is what kills me.  Metallica knew it would not be a “commercial album”.  They can afford it.  They knew it would be controversial.  They can fade the heat.  And they knew, or should have known, that their loyal fans would vomit on their keyboards after Bittorrent finished the download. 

    Why?  Metallica made this choice with Lou Reed, about as “un-Metal” a dude as you will find.  A guy with huge artistic and poetic credibility, albeit from another time.  Don't get me wrong.  The New York City album is one of my all time favorites.  His recent acoustic work is magnificent.  Lou Reed is already an institution with a goofy track record, so anything he gets paid for at this point is gravy.  Metallica, who clearly perceives themselves as relevant and cutting edge, looks silly courting the hipster crown 60 years too late.  This is really Metallica's poorly conceived demand to the world at large to be taken seriously as artists.  Lars is in movies, on TV, hanging out at art galleries and maybe he forgot that we crank up his albums so that when we goose the V8 from 80mph to 120mph we expect everything to be a little bit more awesome.

    There is no universe where this is a great album.  The only thing great about it is that Metallica apparently has no idea their insecurities are so transparent.  Maybe the real “art” of the album is that Metallica thinks it is “art”.

    Not that I have an opinion the matter. . . .

    • You do have an opinion, music is very much a democracy-  a single vote won't change in election but that doesn't mean its irrelevant.  A lot of people feel the way you do, too. It is a bit audacious of Metallica to release something like this. Someone pointed out on Bmouth that it would me more 'art' if they made a limited number of copies. I guess I agree with that. And I can understand the resistance from loyal fans- when you support an artist for their music and the quality of their music, and they do something that completely goes against those expectations, it can be insulting.

      I'm not 'defending' the music on the album, only looking at it in broad terms. This doesn't make me like the music, but helps me understand why it exists and I find that interesting. Art is very subjective and I find this whole concept, not the music but the reaction- fascinating and thought provoking. That's art to me. But it's totally understandable that you and many others don't see it that way.

            Thanks for the insightful, impassioned comment and a good post in its own right.

      • The creative component of art and the labels applied to it are subjective. It's good to remember creating art or music can come from a very deep place and to keep an open mind when reflecting on what others do , that can lead to more awareness and understanding, like this blog forum that we are all collaborators on creating some thought provoking expressions

  5. Good post here.  I listened through the whole thing, found the odd moment compelling, found the other odd moment hilarious, and found everything else to be dull.  To be fair to Metallica, they haven't exactly been shy in saying that this will be a difficult album for most of their fans, and sales seem to be reflecting that.

    • Yes, they've been very clear about it. The music is not for everyone, even those of us who appreciate the purpose of the project.

  6. Before I give my 2 cents worth; I'd like to say that this was a great review and I love Metallica. BUT I just can't get into this, and I supported (and still do) Load and St. Anger (The Unnamed Feeling & All Within My Hands are pretty sweet!). With that being said, I view this as a collaboration between the two so I take it with a grain of salt; this is Lou Reed having Metallica as his backing band. I do think that despite how bizarre the concept is, that is what makes good art: a concept. Granted it's not everyone's cup of tea, but as you said they have earned the right to do whatever they want.
    If you look at this as a piece of art, of course there are going to be people who won't “get it”, but that's okay and it comes with every kind of art. I mean Van Gogh didn't become big until after he died. If any artist was too worried about trying to please everyone all the time with every single piece, that's a recipe for disaster. I mean I personally liked your Attention Deficit albums, but I'm sure that some people don't and I'm sure that that might have bummed you out for a bit, but you just keep going. You have to. If you get good praise that's awesome, but you need to stay grounded. While conversely, if you get just reemed, you can't take it personally; you learn from it. That is one reason why I like Metallica so much, they do what they want and if you don't like it, that's okay because they believe in what they do.

    Who knows, maybe in 15-20 years people will look back on this and think that it was really great or that it was ahead of its time…

    Also as a side note, I just finished reading The War of Art, and I saw a lot of parallels between your review and also the idea of Lulu.

    • Good points. Attention Deficit was put out on a progressive label, and we weren't a band that already had a sound and expectations.

            You never know, Lulu could be an album that gets looked back on as before it's time. But I wouldn't bet on it. It's pretty rare when that happens. On the other hand, listen to Reed's 'Metal Machine Music' and it really is ahead of its time.

  7. People need understand that Lulu don´t is  a Metallica album, and not is Lou album, but yes, two artists that together, they maked something (very) different from careers themselves. As a third element.

    Same that you make some standarts to metal music with your Trio, for me , the Trio is a different element. And if tomorrow, you resolve to play with someone, playing other style, with or without distortion…it´s a new element too.

    The problem is as you listen the albuns and artists. If you compare, of course,  probably you will with make a strange concept.

    • By nature, people get challenged just looking at an artist they're familiar with doing something different. It's taken ten + years of me playing jazz for people to get used to it, and there are still some that will only see me as the Testament guitarist. Some who got to know me from jazz are shocked that I play metal. And others who got to know me through TSO, can't get the image out of their head of me in a tuxedo!

      • You look very nice in a Tuxedo!… But that isn't why TSO fans “can't get the image out of their head”. It's because you bought something into TSO that no one can replace. The same goes for Al Pitrelli but fortunately he hasn't left, so please come back to TSO, we miss you.

          • TSO was a really great thing to be a part of but so much of what's happening now wouldn't be
            possible if I'd stayed (Last winters Europe tour with RyG/AST, the just finished Testament/Anthrax tour, upcoming AST tours, Winter Guitar Retreats, even these blog posts  etc…). It got to be far
            too grueling and time consuming-   8 shows a week (3 hrs
            each) for two + months.

              Still, it's good to know that you and others
            I'm hearing from could notice my contributions through all those lights, platforms, lasers, fire, snow, narration, dancing etc….

  8. This is a brave move for Metallica, I think it proves they have found a sense of freedom with themselves. I listened several sound bites when I was told this was a huge mistake and my friends proclaimed their hatred for it- Apples Itunes has a great sampling of music that I find helpful for purchasing. I tried to keep the heart open to what I was listening to, and the more listened- I found that this does resemble performance art in my view. But- not the kind that I would buy for myself, but that doesn't mean its bad.  Frustration is one song that has some interesting moments, and if you compare it to the music in the 80's that I thought was just to heavy for me- it makes me think-  Maybe Ill like it later.  
    I like your articles and the Yoko Ono compairison because that is something that speaks for itself, but for me so does so all music.  I was always the kid that liked Chick Corea and I still like old  big band Jazz and Free–Form Jazz its just not something that most youngsters liked.  My family listened to all kinds of music in my house, we played music, and we went to concerts where we thought we would love the music, and it wasnt what we thought. 
    I doubt this type of music is a concert level style, but then again, stranger things have happened.
    I think that musicians that search the farthest corners of their limits are actually very inspirational. This is the LU phase for them, I think its good. 
    To put it in perspective, my grandfather was a wood carver, but when he made his carvings they were all abstract.  His stood out in the whole show because no one was doing what he did, he'd win the whole category first second and third. You'd know his from everyone else s.  He taught me, its ok to be yourself, because he said, that is his style. I loved it, to this day, I think that its just not normal to try to be just like everyone else.  Trying something new, that doesnt seem to fit into the cookie cutter style “expected” can be a huge release.  Thanks for the opportunity to discuss this–Happy Holidays
     Skol!  and after seeing Testament twice this year, and the Alex Skolnick Trio, I surely believe you can tell us all about the Avant Garde musician.  X)-

    • A lot of my favorite musicians have done things that completely baffled core fans. Bob Dylan freaked everyone out simply by showing up to a gig with an electric guitar. Stravinsky's 'Rite Of Spring' caused a riot upon its premier. Miles Davis started incorporating rock into his music, pissing off the purists and starting a whole new genre. I doubt Lulu will have the long term success of those experiments, but you have to hand it to them for trying.

  9. “It's such a fine line between stupid and…clever”.  7thbass touches on something that I find rather irritating.  It seems that a fair portion of what is considered an artistic endeavor is considered as such because of the people doing it rather than the content of what is being done.  So much of postwar fine art was built around the deconstruction of the forms that preceded them.  Is a person randomly throwing tennis balls at an empty 40-gallon drum actually music?  Is pressing a turd between sheets of plexiglass actually art?  It's as though the “artistic elite” have placed such cliquish values on what they define as “art”, that it has become almost entirely removed from the common person.  It's as though the value is dependent more upon the intent of the creator than the resulting creation. 

    That said, I'm not accusing Lou Reed and Metallica of that sort of thing, but rather raising the question of whether the value of Lulu is in what was created or in who created it?  I'm actually going to raise a different point; incredibly successful acts can get away with trying something like this, but so can artists who haven't made a penny making music and have no intention to do so.  The biggest difference is in the risk.  If I had my unknown band improvise some music while my 70-year-old father read “A Doll's House” by Henrik Ibsen over the top, and the resulting recording was a complete piece of crap, there's essentially no risk involved for me, my band, or my father.  On the other hand, there is a semblance of risk for Metallica, and it would probably be a career-ending move for a band on its upward climb.

    So I'll applaud Metallica for making a ballsy move, even though I think I'd rather listen to the new Shatner album (it has Michael Schenker).

    • That's a fair argument. A lot of very meaningless creations have appeared and been overhyped, all in the name of 'artistic freedom.' But a lot of great art has emerged from the same postwar movements that have enabled the crap. You just have to sift through it to find the good stuff.

         I think the value in Lulu, if we agree there is value, is more in who created it. If the same music was done by lesser known musicians, we'd probably write it off and not even be discussing it. But the fact that it is done by this combination of iconic names makes it interesting to ponder, if not to listen to.

      • I was talking about this with a friend over lunch yesterday, and he said basically the same thing; so much seems like self-absorbed nonsense, but yet that same environment fostered the development of some great things.  I suppose its like anything else in that sense; any artistic (or musical) trend through history gives birth to some things that transcend the movement itself, and some things that just really terrible.  I think you're right about the value in Lulu being tied to the artists, and I'd add perhaps the “I am the Table!” meme if it sticks around.

    • dude u talk as if this were john cage's ' music for prepared piano'……typical metal dude….trying to sound intelligent but your lack of diversity and culture shines glaringly through as i try to tolerate you..this album is just a more conservative and pop oriented packaging of what the swnas have been doing for the last 30 years……..it's about power, stated as such, with lou alternating between man and woman……..it aint that strange……..just metal taking a baby step ahead……..but obviously that baby step is cause for panic on a widespread level…….such a poor reflection on metal culture…….and yet, personally, i'm not at all surprised………thank you loutallica for having what metal culture lack immensely: BALLS…

  10. I have not heard Lulu but it sounds like a collaboration suspect to some interesting results ,despite acceptance, with intent and purpose toward producing something not for commercial or financial gain ,or that makes a lot of sense, but reflects a joint effort in creative energies and imagination from within, and in that sense, is a work of art.  Some great musical examples of other works too that took a break from the expected norm and creatively expressed and challenged themselves and listening fans taste, whose appeal may be a bit off the wall but opens the audience lens to something wider, if only to appreciate the unique approach and alternative nature of its making. I thought of the Beatles experimental song, Revolution 9 off the White album. Sometimes its good to be thrown a loop, switch gears and shift into new directions if only for a bit and  be a part of a new and different way in musical/art exploration by creating or experiencing that which evokes mixed reviews and reactions, that interferes with our preferences, and, reinforces them.

    • Revolution 9 was said to be along the lines of the Lennon/Ono avant-garde art pieces. There were creative battles over its inclusion on the Beatles White Album. But now that we all know it and accept it, its hard to imagine that album without it.

      • Finally listened to Lulu and now fully understand said comments in this post. I was both engaged and disengaged by its unusual nature. It held my listening attention by its unique darker essence in the words spoken and musical feel played in weaves of  discord, a driving force set within the subject matter, a course striking chords of resonating dissonance that unhinges minds field or set conscious routing to newly created domains, that lies beyond shadows of light cast by critics narrow sight. I do think knowing the conceptual origin of Lulu is necessary for a better experience.  I may not listen to it again or for awhile yet find it refreshing to hear something beyond the expected or allowed by established artists, that has more free dimensions to explore than follow the imposed standards of industry bastardization.

  11. Probably the most intelligent review of this album I've read yet. And when put in the context of the whole pop art thing, a Metallica/Reed (or at least Ulrich/Reed) collaboration kinda makes sense. But as music, the album still sucks…

  12. Probably the most intelligent review of this album I've read yet. And when put in the context of the whole pop art thing, a Metallica/Reed (or at least Ulrich/Reed) collaboration kinda makes sense. But as music, the album still sucks…

  13. Well written Alex.  You ALMOST make me want to check it out.  Maybe that will be the ONE album I download in my life.  To download this will  be artistic in that ironic sense.  I hope they don't make a dollar off of it then.  Like most artists who make art that touches nobody in any particulary inspiring way.

    • Downloading it would be ironic and not necessary. As I say in the above comment, buying the album is not necessary to appreciate it as art. If you really want to hear it, check out some clips on line.

    • You talk like a sheep. your the type of slime who has no problem elevating mediocrity to such a height that it is worthy of commodification . But, according to you, fuck art. Let the artists suffer for being so 'self indulgent' and not considering your fellow sheep.

    • Exactly.  Someone on Bmouth accused me of telling people they should 'buy the album.' Not true! Just having it out there in the universe and creating a reaction makes it art that anyone can appreciate without owning.

  14. So very well put sir. My respect for you is even greater than before. The bit of “Lulu” I heard was just as awful as people have been saying but I strongly admire Metallica's willingness to just go for it and try something completely new. Indeed-that's what art should be!

    • Thanks.  Fearlessness is definitely a factor in Metallica and Lars in particular. It's what created the great albums we love and what created this. You have to admire this quality, even if you don't always like the output it creates.

  15. I agree about one thing:
    With todays definition of the word “art”, Lulu must be perceived as just that. 
    But that still doesn't answer the question why this album should be applauded. It's just.. not good.

    Some people claim that it's groundbreaking. Is it really? And even if it were, witch I think it's not, does that compensate for the lack of quality?

    A lot of people have made groundbreaking work through the years. The list could go on forever but a few that comes to mind are Salvador Dali, Salman Rushdie, Niccoló Paganini, Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen and Yngwie Malmsteen. These people were legitimate groundbreakers. Why? Because their work was based on real talent, they produced work of art of the highest quality even though it had never been done before. Their albums, paintings, books etc. were… good. 
    If breaking new ground and creating art is just about doing something different with no expectation of quality, it would be easy. Anyone could do it. 
    And nowadays, anyone can do it. I don't agree with that. I think that's wrong. My opinion is that every piece of work that is to be applauded has to show talent, inspiration and craftmanship. 
    My personal opinion is that Lulu none of that. It's not groundbreaking, neither is it art.

    I'm afraid it's just… bad.

    • Groundbreaking? I haven't heard that said yet and wouldn't agree with it. Maybe as a concept, certainly not as music. I hear exactly what you're saying. But this, along with the other albums I mention in the post, are all acts of defiance, done people who have achieved something legitimately great and groundbreaking (I think we can all agree that 'Master Of Puppets' for example was groundbreaking as were the seminal works of everyone mentioned). Maybe they know that everyone is expecting that, there is no way they can recreate it, and this is a way to just throw everyone off guard and say 'Hey! Still waiting for the follow up to (insert name of iconic album here)?  Suck on this. Ha ha ha!”

      • Probably some truth in that.
        And interesting review by the way. Better than “The Wiew” 😉 (the instant-classic “I am the table” immediately became a standard joke between me and my friends. If nothing else, Mr. Hetfield put a smile on our faces!)

        • If you had acumen and intelligence you and your global posse of metal morons would be able to interpret the line. Instead, you have to fetishize the statement because your rocknroll hero sang it and you haven't a clue as to what it means. It seems 'arty' to you. So distant from that which you are used to. Fact of the matter is, the line simply is a metaphor for someone being used, which I suppose you never felt before. And if your a metal head I assume your also not allowed to have sociological curiosities as well. Therefore the following line, 'i am the progress, these tell stories ' means absolutely nothing to you. It doesn't pertain to your insular culture. A culture of mindlessness and stupidity. Lulu was wasted on you and your global posse. The albums merits cannot be measured through the eyes of cultural/intellectual fools, fools by default, fools dying for affirmation of  their most lowly defects, fools to deny the fact that there is a real problem with 'metal as art form': Heavy Metal Culture is so Man made. So left brain. It lacks. Lacks brain power, outstanding personalities, authentic individuals, cultural acumen and risk-taking. I will go so far as to say that heavy metal is an exaggerated form of football ran by a highly elite group of people — elevated by the most lowly, singular, redundant and insular of precepts. I should want to be like you. I must hate myself if I don't. You people are not worthy of Lulu because your not worthy of change. The word 'fusion', in an intellectual sense, is not something you aspire to. You are bound by trappings, mostly that of your own intellects, and have no business spewing forth your culturally biased prejudices. Your opinions mean nothing because they are only the reflections of pizza joint owners trying to review a Moroccan restaurant. Again, you haven't the intellectual acumen to interpret Lulu. I don't see myself wanting to pursue an interest in metal music because I will always be reminded of the palpably lunk-headed comments festering on the net about Lulu. I don't agree with Mr. Skolnick that Lulu has prompted any sort of interesting discourse regarding anything. There are about a handful of people with interesting things to say on [this] virtual chalkboard and about three who are actually saying it. There can be no cultural revolution when it is no longer fashionable to challenge style. Metal is a market which is still lucrative due to the mindless pigheaded tools who patronize sports-like ape-ishness masquerading as music. Not even trying to be art. I am embarrassed to share the planet with such a dumb demographic. Heavy Metal should be ashamed of itself. I will no longer patronize this page because it is obvious what the agenda is: preservation of tried and true traditions that keep Kerrang in business and sell tablature to aspiring construction workers. Endlessly agitating and truly pathetic insularity.

    • it [is] groundbreaking……it's sweatpant metal being put to an elder statesman's literary trip and violins……unlike most metal, there's a bit of play involved in the music and he vocals are casual…….perhaps you haven't the acumen to interpret the work………it doesn't seem to pertain to the concerns of rocknroll, let alone metalnroll…….people like you (and there's lots) don't want to so much as dignify lulu by even counting it as art……all this critical volleying but we're evading the pertinent questions —  'what the makes heavy metal such an anal genre occupied by followers who palpably lack tolerance and curiosity?'…… 'do heavy metal enthusiasts hold their sonic customs too dear?'……'do metal enthusiasts generally lack intelligence and, if they do, is it [wrong] to generalize them?'……..and in a broader sense: 'do musical institutions stifle artists to the point that they create work which is significantly compromised (or plain shit)?'…….'what [is] the role of the 'producer'?…….personally, i'm seduced by lulu in a way you can't imagine and finds 'master of puppets' to be kinda pandering……but that's just me.

  16. im 16 and now mr.skolnick i will have a childish moment……. when st.anger came out i called it jason newsteeds revenge, lulu, i call this album mustaines revenge! but in all seriousness, why do huge artists bother to make some projects that they know fans will hate or are pointless kind of like a song without any sound in it…. i know if i were a “metaltitan” like them or yourself i wouldent bother to play around and do such a crappy album

    probably the only band that has done VAST amounts of different albums that no matter what they come up with, its good is JUDAS PRIEST, theyve always entertained fans by doing many differnt styles of metal and every single album theyve done is at the very least a 8 out of 10 rating wise it seems like everything they do they do very well thats what amazes me about them, and thats why I respected so much. 

    but theres bands like slayer, acdc, motorhead and testament (to a smaller degree) that they keep putting good records and their records arent very far apart they all sound alike, in a good way. you know those are very respectable bands too, they dont change their sound very much but yet they manage to come up with new fresh music that is very good

    • My young friend-  I could never understand projects like these when I was sixteen, a loyal fan and aspiring musician. Even as I got older and entered the music world, I didn't get it and never felt the desire to put out something I know my own fans will hate.  But now that I'm a little older, I'm able to look at it from the point of view of those who do feel that desire.

            Sure, I know what it's like to be a 'professional musician' (which I'm grateful for). However, I have no idea what it's like to be a 'cultural icon.' And let's face it: Metallica, Lou Reed, John Lennon and Pat Metheny (certainly in his field of music) all reached this level beyond anyone else in terms of fan expectations, critical analysis etc…  I can't imagine the pressure of being in that position and the feelings, impulses and creative urges it must create in ones head.

    • I hear what you're saying. But look at this way: the actual album is only one piece in the equation of being 'art.'  The reaction to it is another. It's an almost more important piece of the puzzle. Not trying to over-intellectualize here or anything, but when you look at the whole process and how perceptions are being challenged it's really quite interesting.

            Yes, the music being described as 'shit' 'shite' 'a turd' 'excrement' etc…Some of them are quite creative, especially over on Blabbermouth where this very post is creating quite a stir (100+comments):  http://www.roadrunnerrecords.c

           Here's a particularly entertaining one, courtesy of 'Peg The Miner' (and I could be wrong, but I suspect this person is from the UK or Ireland, I hear an accent when I read this):

      “Irrespective of Metallica's lineage, this album is a busted flush.

      To stretch an analogy to the point of ridiculous:

      If
      I woke one morning to find that over night some creature had laid a
      great, rancid twist of shite on my freshly mowed lawn, a specimen so
      large laden it was literally collapsing under the weight of its own
      quality, I wouldn't stop to consider the pedigree of the fell beast
      responsible, nor excuse the errant balloon knot that had born it so. You
      know why?

      Because when all is said and done, it's just shit and that's all it's ever going to be.”

    • Interesting point. Had St. Anger been released like this one, not as an 'official' album,
      and clearly an experimental project, it would have made more sense. I took some initial flack for critiquing that album ('Skolnick slams St. Anger!'), but later most seemed to agree. My issue was never with the band, but with magazines like Rolling Stone and Kerrang that were praising it as this great 'comeback' album. But given where the band was, not having a bassist, and searching for direction, it really was more of an 'experiment.'

  17. Interesting point. Had St. Anger been released like this one, not as an 'official' album,
    and clearly an experimental project, it would have made more sense. I took some initial flack for critiquing that album ('Skolnick slams St. Anger!'), but later most seemed to agree. My issue was never with the band, but with magazines like Rolling Stone and Kerrang that were praising it as this great 'comeback' album. But given where the band was, not having a bassist, and searching for direction, it really was more of an 'experiment.'

    • It's hard to say. I'm sure the act of releasing it will be more appreciated if not the music, but you never know. 'Two Virgins' music never really 'caught on,' although the act of releasing it did. And the music of 'Metal Machine Music' really did catch on, although decades later.

  18. The point of art is to express oneself regardless of who doesn't like
    it.  That being said I have not really cared for ANYTHING Metallica has
    released since …..And Justice For All really, maybe a song here and
    there but definitely not as much as back in the 80's early 90's.  THAT
    being said, I give credit where it's due and LIKE it or LOATHE it one
    thing we all can agree on is that at LEAST it is original and THAT
    belongs in the Metallica bin!  Seriously you may NEVER listen to it
    again but I GUARANTEE this album WILL BE a collectors item none the less
    ESPECIALLY when members of Metallica start to drop off the planet! 
    Even if you absolutely detest it, you can't call your Metallica
    collection complete without it!  Being a fan of ANY band, in my opinion, means giving them room to experiment with new things, said experiments may not work out for the best but at least it's a break in the monotony ya know?

    • No matter what one thinks of it, with this one album, Metallica has defied all accusations of 'selling out' and commercialism.

      • I wonder if Lou or Lars really care about what people think, by those who judge and tread on their souls which created something most likely without caring what others think, which, is a hallmark of artistic sensibility, by, not caring to make the next greatest hit, but to do whatever interests you the most at the time, doing what you want to do not what the audience wants with full commitment without fear of failure or commercial success,

    • Maybe it's just a sound we're not used to yet. Much of what is acceptable by large audiences today would have been considered unlistenable by  those same people during another time, esp. thrash, goth, black and other forms of metal. For that matter, the tritone interval was considered unlistenable, even named 'diabolus in musica' (which inspired the Slayer album of the same name).

      • Yes which is funny since dominant seventh chords feature a tritone interval and classical music uses them i'm sure ! Saying Lulu is unlistenable is like saying black pudding is inedible. It may not be to everyones tastes but it's definitely edible. Lulu isn't even as atonal or as hard on the ears or downright noise-based as Metal Machine Music. I find there is much to be enjoyed in Lulu. The riffs in Dragon, The View and Frustration are pretty good and the production is the best since Garage Inc disc 1. I see it as Lou Reed is doing what Lou Reed does and Metallica are doing what they do. Both are fine on their own terms, but sound weird when combined. I listen to this CD on a regular basis and I actually enjoy the weirdness. It's good that bands take risks now and then. “Selling Out” can also mean putting out the same album every 2,3 years because you know it will sell by the shedload ( AC/DC , MotorHead, Slayer ) etc etc.  As James himself said ” Metallica make the music they want to make. If you don't like the latest CD – go and listen to the one you do like ” .

  19. Maybe youre not as rich as the metallica men, but you sure have
    More talent and quality as a person than all of them together. This
    Analisys of lulu establishes you in my eye as a full artist. And dude
    Your jazz trio is a real artistic project, i have yet to hear something
    As fulfilling as your trio, i dig it, even though is a real pain
    Getting that cds here in mexico.

    • Glad you like it. It pains me that the jazz albums are so hard to get in certain places. It's very hard to get the backing of corporations that make that kind of distribution possible.

  20. Thanks for the objective review Alex, it makes more sense when it isn't reviewed as just an album, and you have a little more knowledge of what went on to create it.

    • Sometimes its important to look beyond the album itself, and take a really good look at, to quote one of the songs 'The View'

    • I don't know about that, but thank you. I look to the examples of Henry Rollins, Frank Zappa and others (Neil Pert, Brian May, Ian Anderson, etc…).

  21. I am the first to admit that I don't really get art. I stood in front of Damon Hurst's formaldehyde fixed half cow and had trouble really seeing it as artistic. Not surprisingly, I'm don't get Lulu. Lou Reed is unlistenable and that is not up for debate, but I will say some of the riffs on it are OK. I don't really hate the music, but Lou gets old fast. I was very aware of his other stuff and probably knew what to expect more than the average metallica fan. I can sort of see why metallica did this, they got to work with Lou Reed, the album was essentially recorded live and they had a blast doing it. Metallica have always pushed the envelope and never done what you thought they would and I do respect that. Sometimes it works (TBA, Load to an extent), sometimes it doesn't (Reload). S+M was a masterpiece as far as I am concerned, it is sonically very powerful. I got that, it worked, it sounded great. Nothing however is as polarizing as Lulu, and maybe that is why they did it. When metallica seem to be in a comfort zone, such as the success of the DM album and tour, they seem to need to do something to shock people. As a professional musician Alex, can you honestly see Metallica sitting in the studio playing this and believing that it sounds great?

    • Dutchy- Don't worry. Most artists don't even get art. 😉 That's why there' always a fancy artist statement. Besides, it's more fun to question art than to “get it.” Smart people always ask questions. 😉

      • Don't laugh, but I am a scientist. Maybe I have the wrong part of my brain active to get or question “art”. I am tempted to buy the CD and hang it on my wall to see if it is aesthetically pleasing. My guess is not.

        • I think you've both said it well. It's very cool to have people fluent in art and science conversing on this blog, as well as those who are simply passionate about music. We can all learn from each other. 
            
               As far as the guys sitting in the studio listening- it's hard to say what happened. But I can imagine them listening back as though it were a cassette recorder that captured their first jam in a garage. I can also picture them knowing what an
          uproar it was going to cause immensely enjoying the process.

  22. Y'know, you say that you're not in the 1% of musicians who can do whatever they want; but I think the fact that you've played in Savatage, the Alex Skolnick Trio and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, musical outfits radically different from Testament, would attest that you, too, have achieved a level of musical flexibility and maneuverability that lots of other metal musicians either avoid, or only dream of. 

    I love when established bands do something different and challenging that alienates the purists, the undergrounds, the die-hards. I loved it when Savatage became a rock opera band, “Load” is in my top 3 Metallica albums, etc. etc. If “Lulu” antagonizes Metallica's fan base this much, then I will instinctively default to giving the album the benefit of the doubt. A lot of it doesn't work, some of it does work, but that's not the point: to me, the point is that Metallica had the sheer balls to do it. They could have gone the easy way, sure, and just released the follow-up to “Death Magnetic” as par for the course. No one would have thought less of them.

    But that they ran such a huge risk of people doing just that – that, to me, is almost worth more than another typical heavy metal album. Listening to “Lulu” and Megadeth's “TH1RT3EN” back to back, it hit me that music albums are like vacation pictures. Lots of bands are doing the whole “back to the roots” thing now – Megadeth, Anthrax, Slayer, even Testament, etc. – which seems to be the vogue thing in heavy metal now. And it strikes me that those albums are like going to your favorite vacation spots over and over. It never changes, but it's fun. 

    Metallica are the only ones going to different places. It's weird, it's strange, nobody speaks the language…but at least it's new. It's different. 

    And yeah, at the risk of killing any Internet cred I might have had, I'll take that over the usual holiday photos again.

    • > you, too, have achieved a level of musical flexibility
      and maneuverability that lots of other metal musicians either avoid, or
      only dream of.

          I suppose that's true. After ten+ years of doing my own thing and resisting the stereotypes others try to inflict on me, it seems like there is finally a level of freedom, acceptance and even appreciation of individuality not afforded many other musicians. Sure, I wouldn't mind the higher tax-bracket, but not at the expense of my own integrity.

         > Megadeth, Anthrax, Slayer, even Testament, etc. – which seems to be the
      vogue thing in heavy metal now.

            You're absolutely right. I do think the 'roots' thing is the right move for those bands. I admit at times wishing Testament could be more adventurous (not doing projects like 'Lulu, per se, but shaking things up just a little bit more). But the other guys don't think that way and I respect that.  I'm happy leaving the experimentation for my other projects, such as AST.

          >And it strikes me that those albums are
      like going to your favorite vacation spots over and over. It never
      changes, but it's fun. Metallica are the only ones going to
      different places. It's weird, it's strange, nobody speaks the
      language…but at least it's new. It's different. And yeah, at the risk of killing any Internet cred I might have had, I'll take that over the usual holiday photos again.

            Very good analogy. The general public may not like the different places Metallica is going at this very moment in comparison with their past work. But it was that restlessness of spirit and ability to venture into the unknown which created those classic Metallica albums that we all know and love.

  23. Excellent review.  The economy the way it is, can't afford to buy an album that I don't enjoy.  You are right about Metallica.  They are so successful worldwide that they could collaborate with the Pope and still be on the charts for a couple of weeks or more.  Very informative and entertaining.  Listened to you for many many years and you are one of the best.  Thanks.

    • Thank you. Another point to consider is that ownership of albums is at an all time low. So as long as people are going to be able to check out the tracks on-line anyway, why not make a product that most people aren't going to want to buy?

          Remember, Metallica has a history of sneaking in these quirky  little side products in between albums, where sales figures aren't as much of a factor:  'Garage Days EP' Garage Days Revisited' Garage Days Re-Revistited' 'S&M' etc… At this point, they've done punk covers, recorded with a symphony, recorded classic rock (Queen, Bob Seger, Skynyrd). So what else could they do that would just completely get people to stop and take notice (regardless of liking the music)?  I'd say this qualifies.

  24. I remember reading an interview on Guitar World magazine wherein Kirk Hammett somewhat pointed out that he would only listen to any criticism regarding Metallica's music if that person was “qualified.” Clearly, he meant that the person must have experienced being a successful touring and recording artist, lived and breathed music, and knew enough about the inner workings of the music industry to present a valid critique about them. Obviously, there's no better person than you, Alex, who could provide an unbiased insight regarding this controversial record. Thank you for speaking out your mind and ,hopefully, cleared out some cobwebs out there. Cheers.

    • It was hard for me to watch all the reviews and reactions to the record, many by critics and other so called 'experts' who were not thinking about any of these other angles mentioned in this post. 

           I do realize the concept of 'liking' a creative work that though you don't want to look at it for too long (or in this case, listen to), is a bit
      difficult for many to grasp.  So while the post was written simply for my own creative expression, if it helps others understand it in anyway, then I'm happy to help.

  25. Sorry, no. This record is pure crap.  Top to bottom.  You could poop on a table and put a gallery light on it and call it art – doesn't mean it actually is and nor do I want anything to do with it.  Pass.

    • By reacting to it and especially by posting about it on-line, you are having something to do with it, whether you like it or not.

      • By giving my personal opinion about a news report concerning the financial crisis and tweeting about it, doesn't change the fact that whether I talk about it or not, the crisis will not change because of my behaviour. “You are having something to do with it” is a phrase you can apply to anything 'cause nowadays, and especially with Web 2.0, everything is up for discussion. There is no mythical depth to this album since they market the shit out of Lulu. If they would have released this with the intention of creating 'art', they would have given it away for free to give people something to think about. The problem is that 'art' is becoming so subjective that even 5 drips of paint on a canvas can be considered 'a brilliant idea'. The thought behind it has become so much more important than the actual creation of something both technical and beautiful. There are no boundaries anymore to what art really is so every one can consider themselves an artist. I'm not kidding when I say that if people accept Lulu as a work of art, I'm frightened. And yes, I've listened to it multiple times.

        • >There are no boundaries anymore to what art really is so every one can consider themselves an artist.
             
                 That applies to music as well (Rebecca Black has the gall to consider herself a musician). But part of my point was that in this case, the parties responsible have serious credibility in the music AND art world.

           >The thought behind it has become so much more important than the actual creation of something both technical and beautiful

                    It's clearly not the most 'technical' work every released, but there are some here who find it beautiful (disclaimer: the views expressed in these threads do not necessarily reflect the views of the author of this blog post).       Are they wrong? Are you?      The exploration of these ideas is interesting, even if you don't happen to like the music or concept of the album. You're welcome to disagree, which is one of the beauties of living in a (sort of) free society.

    • I really like how you used the word poop 😛 I don't agree with you but being an adolescent, I still have some kinks in the maturity machine that need to be checked out. Therefore when you said “poop on a table and put a gallery light on it and call it art” I chuckled quite furiously 😛

  26. Im a hardcore metallica fan, and i think the album is great.  There is no genre of music on the album i dislike, rap, no hip hop. no bubblegum pop punk, techno dance,  so for me i have no problem with the music,  its loutallica, a new thing, to say its a bad album is really missing the point, a band creating music, having fun, not to please the masses. but to please themselves,  whats the problem?

    • Great to hear from someone who truly 'likes' the album. And that's a good point, it certainly does not venture into 'dance- pop' territory or any other genre that's not 'rock,' even if it's a unique style of rock many can't relate too.

      • It's not unique. Bands like Hawkwind have been appropriating heavy metal music for decades. Space Metal. What [is] unique about this album is the marriage of spoken poetry to sweatpant metal with a kind of twist to it, especially with the noisy stuff the guitars are doing……..which is fairly new for Metallica.
                The CD is a masterpiece and it's ashame that 99% of metal aficionados (atleast the one's I know) refuse to actually listen to it. They flat-out hate it. It speaks poorly of the mentality of many metal fans. At the very least, it points to the 'technical perfectionism'  and unadventurous nature of metal fans. Sad, politically incorrect, but true.
                I remember encountering the same mentality way back in the 80's while over a friends house. There was an English thrash-metal band sleeping over who happened to live not far from Hawkwind's communal abodes. When I mentioned that I really enjoyed their music one of the members (who was wearing sweatpants) flatly stated, “bullock, total bullocks that crikey shiite is made for people on drugs — can't stand it!!!!!”
               One would like to think metal aficionados were more open to the expressive qualities of music, or just quirky playful interesting intuitive things as well as the usual mechanical machine drills (and I don't necessarily mean that in a bad way).
               You get the feeling that metal becomes a sonic armour for many………where one's vulnerabilities, subtleties or other appropriations of humanity are to be aggressively ostracized or scorned.
               It all leads me to wonder if many metal aficionados could possibly have something to hide.
               Perhaps, the male members of said institution have repressed homosexual tendencies. Perhaps the female members are merely appeasing them (to a degree). Maybe all people who love metal are acutely sensitive.

              We must not stereotype people.

              Everybody needs to make a buck. We all require human love, artistic acceptance and Facebook friends.

              It is not easy living in the real world (that's for sure}.

              “A fuck is a fuck” (GG Allin)
            
               Maybe we shouldn't expect too much from They.

               The few, the non-proud and non-elite (who embrace Lulu) are probably the types of people I personally would want to smoke a joint with and explore the realms of textures/tones/possibilities.

              “Music is for people” (Red Krayola).

              Why [should] musical commodities be reserved only for sheep who feel they are somehow qualified to gage the merit of human expression?

        • I'm fifteen years old, and In grade ten, I just wanted to say that if you were a student in my English class everyone would stand and clap (as that is the custom when some one has issued a great point) that was a very detailed and well thought out response, and I know it probably means nothing to you if a 15 year old admires your comment but, well it made me click the link and scroll down until I found your comment just so I could give you a compliment. Well said Cosmicmother I hope the Metal Heads of the next generation have the exact mindset of you.

          • If you really wanted to appear to be 15 years old perhaps you would not be so punctually perfect and your syntax would be slightly inconsistent. Perhaps I'm juvenile in your mind and worthy of this sort of 'patronage' (in it's derogatory context). So be it. I'm done participating in a forum which seems decidedly against criticizing metal culture. Metal culture is equally or more deserving of critical analysis than Lulu when discussing Lulu. Though perhaps this isn't the right place for it (in the majority of minds).

          • I second Logan's comment. Very wise, esp for a tenth grader.

                 Cosmicmother-    While I'm not sure if the work is a 'masterpiece' (time will tell)  your points are on target. It is interesting that the hard rock/heavy metal demographic was seen for many years as being misogynistic and homophobic (probably not helped by the lyrics of one Axl Rose). Then it turned out that there are rock and metal icons who are gay (Freddie Mercury of Queen- sort of an 'honorary' metal band) and of course Rob Halford of Judas Priest (whom I wrote about in a past blog post http://skolnotes.blogspot.com/

                 As a totally heterosexual yet sensitive, non-homophobic male, I would say most metal guys I know (and there are so many), are probably not closeted homosexuals. However, some of them do have a weird aversion to sensitivity and anything not 'masculine' enough. Maybe they do have something to hide, although I suspect it is more likely deep rooted insecurity.

          • I've noticed this too. Many metal dudes are uptight about “feeling”, but theyr'e super sensitive and nice when theyr'e not playing music. Any metal head that I bring up this album to get's [mad] at me. As if something they are clinging to in an extraordinary sense has been violated. I think a lot of it to hide a deep rooted vulnerability (maybe homosexuality. Consider that metal dudes used to dress up as tranvestites and you can get a sense of what might be going on. I always thought metal gives many men a chance to practice being linear-thinking, aggressive men who have mastered both a trade and their linear lobes. Lou Reeds voice, which is purely expressive and technically unconcerned, will not be a hit with metal heads for purely obvious reasons. Intellectual bookish themes will also not be a hit with metalheads because it is probably not part of their cultural agenda. You, Mr. Skolnick, are a rare exception. A gentleman and a scholar. Thank you for your wonderful review. but, make no mistake, the CD is  a gift from the Gods. Spacey Avante Metal meets BDSM. Metallica meets Lou Reed.

  27. Such a great perspective on the record. Thanks for such a lucid commentary. To wit, it seems that it would be worthwhile to consider the aesthetics in German Expressionist art and film. A displacement of expected visual rhythms within the film sets is typical, as is visual dissonance (ugliness) in the associated paintings. The influence of German Expressionism on the horror genre is well known, especially thanks to its direct lineage to Hitchcock and movies like, “Psycho.” – So- for Metallica to try and pick up on some of that and explore it makes good sense, and I'm glad they took up the challenge. It's also interesting to re-imagine the soundtrack to German Expressionist films/plays since instrumentation of that day was limited and silent film was the immediate contemporary. Thus, when shown in theaters, films of the genre were probably accompanied by the in-house organ player— or in the case of plays, an orchestra. Modern instrumentation that also gives nod to the genre's influence on modern film – and which acts as a sound bed for such a human story- is an interesting vehicle for creating a sense of tension. Forcing the story forward in time via the metal soundtrack could also be a way of confronting the failure in society to resolve the issues which preclude prostitution (the story in the orig. Lulu plays) even after nearly a century of progress in civil rights and attitudes regarding sex and women. 

    It is worth checking out Sir Andrew Davis's commentary on Lulu the opera, vs Lulu  as interpreted by Metallica/Reed. ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v… ) Even in that version of the play, the music is imagined in a way which many listeners should and do find uncomfortable. While a large majority of opera goers arrive expecting the lilting arias of, say, Puccini- Lulu's music (Alban Berg) is wrought with persistent dissonance- and has often been called “ugly.” To that end, perhaps the Metallica/Reed collaboration has arrived at its intended result? Perhaps a greater success than we realize? Hard to say in those terms. 

    For music fans not familiar with experimental music, it may be worth considering the role expectations and surprise play in the appeal of music. Music is merely a collection of rhythmic and tonal intervals. The brain entrains with a certain amount of repetition, and then begins the pleasurable hunt for deviation/change/surprise within the pattern. That's why in the midst of a sing-song-y pop song, a good bridge is so much more engaging. The same principle can be applied to fancy tempo changes, odd chord progressions, and so forth. Often, experimental music denies the listener the comfort of repetition, and easily discernible patterns. Instead of being able to “fall into” a song, listeners must engage in a constantly unwinding piece the way a math fiend engages with pi. On the micro level, I find the musical component of the record to be much too easy to embody this principle. However, on the macro level- we take two entities, Reed and Metallica, both of whom for me, have become so predictable and repetitious as to have become unlistenable… and then you throw them into a studio together, and the result is jarring enough to demand attention (though, perhaps not fondness). Perfect. A pattern interrupt in the greater flow. 

    When viewed from this angle, I would call this a great conceptual success. LIke the work of greats like Malcolm Goldstein, I never need to hear it more than once. But I respect Metallica for it more than I have in over 20 years.

    • Thanks for posting one of the most insightful and relevant comments in the 3+ year history of this blog.

               What I've tried to do is help expand the horizons of those who might not understand the full context and implications of a creation such as this.  I know my own context is limited to my personal experiences, which are shaped much more a life in music than a knowledge of art. I suppose it could be argued qualified to write this because I know what its like to be baffled by an artist when you're expecting something much more in line with their previous output (I was a bit young for Lennon and Reed, but certainly remember the P. Metheny album coming out in the 90's and thinking 'Why would he do that?'). I've also been in the position, several times in fact, of having expectations and going against them (as a guitarist who played 'thrash,' and wasn't expected to develop into a serious musician or become a literate person with cultural awareness and high tastes and standards). I've also been in the unique position of rubbing elbows with some of the subjects of this post, all of which I suppose adds to whatever credibility this post hopefully has.  But what you've done here is shine further light upon it, with a perspective that only someone who is fluent in art and music, and the particular subgenres of Expressionist art and metal music could accomplish.

            >A displacement of expected visual rhythms within the film sets is
      typical, as is visual dissonance (ugliness) in the associated paintings.
      The influence of German Expressionism on the horror genre is well
      known, especially thanks to its direct lineage to Hitchcock and movies
      like, “Psycho.”
          
             This is a great point, one which I wish I'd been aware of when writing the original post. Of course, the link between horror and modern metal is well known. In fact, legend has it that the existence of Black Sabbath (the forefathers of metal), has much to do with the band, tired of playing to nearly empty rooms, noticing a line around the block for the latest horror movie.

            >Forcing the story forward in time via the metal soundtrack could also be
      a way of confronting the failure in society to resolve the issues which
      preclude prostitution (the story in the orig. Lulu plays) even after
      nearly a century of progress in civil rights and attitudes regarding sex
      and women.

            Clearly there are a lot of unresolved attitudes that remain in regards to attitudes towards sex and women. In fact, it can be argued that while primitive male attitudes still exist, there has also arisen a 'reverse sexism,' that creating a demographic of subservient men. Is this part of what's being expressed in this modern take on Expressionism?  Possibly. Either way, that's a subject for a whole other blog post. 

          >It is worth checking out Sir Andrew Davis's commentary on Lulu the opera, vs Lulu  as interpreted by Metallica/Reed. ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v

            The clip is very enjoyable and enlightening. I suppose one of the biggest challenges here for fans to do deal with is that you have to look much, much further in order to even attempt to understand this album (if that's possible). This in itself goes against the very reasons so many are drawn to metal in the first place: it's simplicity. 

          After all, the foundation of metal is the riff, something even the far from bright cartoon characters Beavis & Butthead can latch onto (who of course are created by a brilliant man, Mike Judge. Would love to see a B&B take on Lulu). Many metal fans have trouble listening to blues, jazz and classical, let alone accepting that these forms have helped shape the music they love. To challenge them with work that involves poetry, plays and opera is probably asking a lot. But its fun to explore these things, even if its not your cup of tea. I also remember what it's like to just want to bang my head to some good metal, and people in that frame of mind should stay the hell away from all discussions on Lulu and just listen to metal albums they know they like.
            
             Not sure who you are or where you came from, Ms. Ad-Infitium: what you've written here qualifies as 'Ad-dendum.'  
           

      • I think this discussion could easily branch into dozens of directions, from the artistic intent behind the original Lulu, the Lou Reed take on it sans Metallica, the Lou Reed take with Metallica, and the cultural baggage that changes our perspective on the actual audio that has been recorded.  Had I not stumbled on this blog post, I'd have probably just brushed it aside as a 200-level Metallica art project.  But when you actually consider it, it does raise a lot of questions, particularly to a guy like me who would probably give Colonel Klink saying “HOOOGAANNN!!!” as an example of German Theatrical Expressionism. 

        In both the original Lulu and in the Loutallica take, the story has Lulu's attractiveness and sexuality take her to to the very highest strata of society.  Everybody wants what she has.  Men crumble before her.  She has no empathy for those who are dying to be with her, but rather pits them against each other and uses them to achieve favorable ends for herself.  At the end of the story, she has fallen from the highest to the lowest end of society.  What was her power has become her crutch, and inevitably leads her into her death.  Her power becomes her undoing.  Of course, the irony gets to be that the one person who she willingly goes to and gets nothing in return is the one who simply kills her.  Or maybe her killing is the actual payment.  What does this mean?  And who is Lulu, really?  Each of her succession of lovers calls her something different, and finds in her something that they want.  Her lovers really know nothing about her but simply find what they are looking for, and she is apparently indifferent to the feelings and fates of those she leaves in her wake.  The content of the Lulu story itself raises a ton of questions and provokes enough thoughts without even bringing Lou Reed and Metallica into the picture. 

        What does having Metallica provide music for the Lou Reed interpretation of this story have to do with the main themes of Lulu itself?  Maybe it tells us more about Lou Reed's impression of Lulu than we think.  Perhaps, he interprets the story in the light of the original title for the first installment; “Erdegeist” (earth-spirit).  Maybe Lulu is simply a personification of the force of nature that is sex and all that is associated with it.  Then perhaps Metallica's role was to provide an earthy, elemental, and larger-than-life musical backdrop for the whole thing.  That makes more sense to me than an attempt to substitute improvised heavy metal for the 12-tone vibe of the earlier opera in an attempt to convey a similar thing. 

        BTW–I would like to thank the people who wrote the Wikipedia entry about Lulu for any knowledge that I now have about it whatsoever.

        • Good observations & theories, even if Wikipedia is the source (kudos for being upfront about that). It's also interesting to think about the role that the internet plays in all of this- the fact that everyone can sample the music on-line, everyone can 'Google' about 'Lulu' source material for background info and that blogs and other forums like this now exist for everyone to discuss their thoughts. With the other albums mentioned in the post, all discussion was limited to print and word of mouth (literally).

    • Awesome Ann.  There has Not been enough analyzing of the albums content and the commentary it is making and way too much analysis of the personalities behind it.  Along similar lines as yourself, when I listen to this album I think about the roles we play in society, how society sees us in these roles and our capacity to be ourselves within these established views.  I would recommend people check out Sylvia Plath and her poem “The Applicant”  for an interpretation of what I'm trying to say. Cheers too Alex for the review and the interesting historical perspective – l would encourage you to listen to it more than once, it's one long story that encapsulates many sad themes that the unfortunate Lulu is tasked to wearing this time.

  28. it is what it is….metallica is having fun with lou reed and just doing something different….its more of a lou reed thing if anything….people take metallica too seriously….its just music…if you like it cool if not then don't…people in general just don't get it….its not a metallica album so don't freak out.. …Everybody takes things way out of proportion….and as far as metallica doing another master like album….thats not gonna happen….when your young ,drunk ,broke,and not married with kids and were just playing to be heavy and fast…..but once you make tons of money and have conquered everywhere…whats left…whats to be angry about….they are definately not angry about their bank accounts…i wouldn't be either…metallica fan for life..i listen to it as a musician of 25 years and a music lover all my life… i dont want another past album…let aging bands be….no one stays the same forever

    • No matter what anyone says, it is eally, really different. It is not only unique among metal bands, but among rock supergroups as well. U2 did get into some unusual territory with Zooropa, Pop and its controversial ZooTV and PopMart tours, but later came blasting back down to what fans know and love with 'All The You Can't Leave Behind.' It would be interesting if they mounted a full 'Lulu' tour, but somehow, I don't see that happening.

  29. Any credit this album gets is undeserving. I think Lars has been to too many art shows… you know, the ones where “artists” throw paint, vomit and other bodily fluids against a canvas and call it art. 

    The rest of us must just not “get it”.

    • That is one opinion- a valid one that appears shared by others. But even supposing all that is totally true, it doesn't make the project's existence any less interesting.

          I'm not familiar with Opeth's 'Heritage,' but others on-line are mentioning that as well, so I'll be keeping an ear out for it…

  30. typical metalhead you……metalheads get uneasy when i talk about what the album addresses……….not surprised that you've addressed none of it………gender………..sex……………male anger seething more than ever underneath our shallow facades nowadays……….what do u care about that…………all metal people care about is style and whats good or bad — “art”..we all know most metal is functional and imitative and based on protocol…….so you put the “art” in a box……metal culture is based on values which are written in stone……….your review is not surprising………good art comments on life……….have u noticed?…….if you did you wouldn't say it

  31. the metal neanderthals keep saying, 'this just sucks man' because they have low iq's (which they try to compensate for by fetishizing mathematical complexity and precision), lack a fundamental understanding of cultures beyond their myopic realms……and are about as conservative as fundamentalist christians………i don't hang with metal people, i don't discuss deep things with metal people, i don't discuss ideas with metal people and i don't turn metal people onto new and different things because if it's a little different (i.e. 'lulu') they get all bent out of shape…..that said, i think 'lulu' is a meaningful statement on gender and is highly relevant to times like these where craigslist/porn sites/live video girl$ with daddys defines the very lives we live after paying taxes…..but lets not talk about that….lets discuss metal, it's history, it's influence, our commitment to it and all the things which inspired it.

    • This part of your comment is interesting and thought provoking: 

      > i think 'lulu' is a meaningful statement on gender and is highly
      relevant to times like these where craigslist/porn sites/live video
      girl$ with daddys defines the very lives we live after paying taxes

          This part is not:

           > the metal neanderthals keep saying, 'this just sucks man' because they
      have low iq's (which they try to compensate for by fetishizing
      mathematical complexity and precision), lack a fundamental understanding
      of cultures beyond their myopic realms…

            Unfortunately the relevant things you have to say are completely invalidated by your blanket statements and judgments. Saying that about anyone who likes metal is unfair and shows the same type of ignorance you seem to be rallying against.

      • oh i heard that line before….”don't stereotype They” (that would be judgmental!)……….my dear friend, is it not a double standard to stereotype oneself for financial and libidinal gain and have the convenience of dismissing accusations of pandering via the PC card you've just dealt?…….come on man, both the statements you paraphrased are terribly relevant and you damn know it…….i (like you) play METAL…….don't act like you don't know what it's all about……let's take this line by line……a) “metalheads have low iqu's”  — i won't be intellectual about this — you know exactly what i'm talking about — forget the word 'intelligence' — they just LACK — what do they lack? well, GENERALLY speaking: intuition, soul, curiousity, diversity and tolerance — many people associate such things with Intelligence…..b) “……which they compensate for by fetishizing mathematical complexity and precision” — yes, metal is  precisionistic, has a production protocol which must be fulfilled each and every time in order to be accepted by metal enthusiasts and most metal (in modern terminology) is based on extremely complex permutations of basic mathematics — this enables cultists with marginalized brain power to impress eachother — all of this, of course, is exclusively attributable to the so-called linear lobes (or right brains) — god damn improvisation/ 'expressiveness'/playfullness/authenticity etc — hence 'this definitely sucks damn!' or 'lou reed is shit' or 'lou reed destroys evrything as soon as he opens his fucking mouth'  or ' i hope lou reed dies for this!' or  'the guitars weren't mixed right and everything sounds completely wrong'………ah, the spirit of art, the beauty of creation, the pureness of discover…….i should never steriotype such a diverse group of music lovers……to summarize: loutallica have broken several cardinal sins held most sacred amongst metal followers: they are improvising, being expressive, casting technicality to the wind sometimes and really playing…..and they are authentically being themselves……now they should suffer the spears and arrows that the vitriol-spewing style-fetishists wiled generously towards them.going so far as to make threats upon a 70 yr old man's life.

        • @Igatefascists : For the life of me, I cannot imagine what sort of validation or productive line of conversation you are seeking with these last two comments. Maybe it is not intentional, but on the page your words look elitist, and sort of mean-spirited.

          If I may, I would like to address your comments regarding the people you purport to associate with, play in a band with, and play to voluntarily. As a person whose IQ tests out around 145-148 (avg. Americans are around 100-110) and who loves metal, I can assure you that metal lovers come with all different levels of intelligence. Furthermore, IQ is not the best or only significant measure of intelligence. Progressive thought:  Ideas, innovation, reinterpretation, and new questions- is the result of a diverse collection of perceptive and creative skills. To that end, you may wish to read the work of Howard Gardner on multiple theories of intelligence, and consider that those who think in absolutes tend not to be very smart, or very healthy psychologically. The need for rigidity is usually symptomatic of a person who lacks an internal sense of grounding, and needs certainty and control because they do not trust their own intelligence/intuition enough to acknowledge subtlety/shades of grey. So- as you reach to stereotype MILLIONS of people, consider what you are conveying about yourself.

           Re: >”…all of this, of course, is exclusively attributable to the so-called linear lobes (or right brains)”

          The right vs left hemisphere school of thought is pretty sub-101 in terms of understanding the way the brain works. But- in that line of thinking, the left hemi- is associated with analytical/process dominant thinking whereas the right is associated with conceptual/metaphorical  thinking. Music, and appreciation of its complex forms demands a high degree of hemispheric synchrony, as the ability to identify/appreciate intervals (chords, rhythm, etc) is, at heart, a mathematical skill. (See Pythagorus.) The emotional charge we get from these auditory-processed intervals is  due to synaptic cross linking with the other many parts of the brain where emotions and memory live. Going deeper, we find that unlike language and speech (neurologically separate, btw)— MUSIC has it's very own “home” in the brain- explaining why stroke victims can sing, even when they cannot speak. Therefore, it is entirely plausible to think that the people you refer to as 'neanderthals” simply have a distinct area in which their very high degree of intelligence is focused- while other areas that are important to you, have languished in favor of the former. In short, why judge if you don't know?

          Moreover, as someone whose circles of friends include 80's thrash metal fans, math/prog metal musicians, seminal punk rockers, and members of VERY successful indie rockers and electronic/pop musicians, and jazz players,  I can assure you that EVERY genre of music- at every level-  attracts intensely ignorant and intensely BRILLIANT people in similarly mixed numbers. I can also assure you that at metal shows I have attended across the country, the level of friendliness, kindness, and all-around inclusivity exceeds that which I have seen at shows of most other genres. For all the ranting about intelligence and what you seem to perceive as a narrow creative playing field, you are very eager to box everyone else in and presuppose that your experience is somehow more valid than theirs. Art, you may recall, is all about subjective experience. Someone's dislike of a piece or their fondness for one style or another does not relegate them to the “unwashed masses.” In fact- sometimes dislike on the part of a viewer/listener is the INTENDED outcome. So- in rejecting LULU, they may be getting it right. Once again, letting go of presupposition is the road to a richer life and artistic experience. Sorry to be long winded, and for butting in… Best-

          • Interesting how those eager to be well liked have often called me 'elitest'. It's the price one pays for being special in few people's minds and ears. I'm going to make my point very simple. You can call me 'elitist' when I'm addressing elitists. You can call me 'judgmental' when I'm judging the jury. You can call me mean-spirited when I'm judging monsters. My point: the sort of metal people who feel qualified, somehow, to voice  their opinions on Lulu appear to be seriously lacking in basic intelligence. Forget IQ. IQ means fuck. I know your the type that likes to please the [true] elitists — academics who make a business out of knowledge…..write turn papers that are historically sound and whatnot, but I could give a fuck. I'm anti education. I'm anti-institution. I'm anti-conformity. And, no, I don't believe your IQ digit makes you particularly perceptive. I'll be honest. I could care less about the historical value of Lulu. Why does it appeal to me? I am a misogynist. I despise women for deeply ingrained sociological reasons. I see so much going on today that is horrendous. Man has become a slave (or 'table' as the songs go), being bullied when he decides to watch other people having sex on the computer, meet girls on dating sites, goes to clubs under completely deceptive and coercive pretenses — these things demoralize his existence. These things exploit and demean his very humanity. Women, if they would but will themselves to being independent, can easily support themselves by kicking men in the balls or merely dancing for them. Exercise is really good for your body. My point: men are being transformed into homosexuals at an alarming rate. This is a fact. You can call me names for that too. Maybe you prefer, 'homophobic' or 'delusional' or 'blanket statement'. Maybe, even 'paranoid'. So be it. Still, I will maintain my case that there are serious changes going on in the underbelly of the human soul…..and the sexual aspect is an obvious component of the changes which are occurring. Yet, who is talking about it? No one….hardly. Least of all, the world of Art or popular music. Knowing Lou's history, that he once married a transvestite and is a keen social observer, I wouldn't be surprised if Lulu is but a subversive agitprop (a giant mirror, if you will) to hold up to humans in sorry times. I don't think it is merely coincidental what Lou is doing: the constant hugging, words of affection towards the handsomest member of the band, constant references to the sexual/music interplay in almost sensual terms. Lou and the guys are tweaking the metal culture. Yes, it is a largely homophobic culture. More ironic that metal men used to dress up like macho transvestites. I have played in experimental metal bands in the 80's and 90's and know the culture well. I personally [can't] attest to meeting any geniuses in the field (or the net) and can accept the fact that you [have]. Or, perhaps you believe one's academic pliability equates intelligence. Again, I'm partly to blame for the IQ card by offering up the significance of it. Intelligence (to me) means that one would be perceptive — and perceptive enough not to be overly logical/anal/limited despising all that can be fun and playful in art. That the wild boars freely spew forth their cold vitriol towards the album via negative online trolling and threats to Reeds well-being indicates to me that they may be rather simplistic, which, again, says more about a persons intelligence than their ability to be cognitive academically. That the wild boars, who subscribe to a culture riddled with trappings all related to style, could probably care less about the social/lyrical ramifications of this thing called Lulu —  which is what really matters most when considering the subversive level it is working on. this, to me, indicates that there may, in fact, be a shortage of brain power within the metal culture. It is not endemic of [any] music culture to be, at the very least, interesting. Shit rises. The masses, by law, are asses. Common denominators become aesthetic straightjackets. Did I say aesthetic? What? Using those big words like that old faggot Lou Reed? Pretentious Weasil! Your not worthy of metal. Get away from Us. Go back from where you came. Cliff would never let this happen! As for you, Ad-Infinitum: I'm heartily sorry if it offends you that I've found followers of popular musical cultures (in general) to be unsavory friends, backstabbing lovers and not worth my time sparring with over the internet. I'm into possibilities, ideas and constructive anarchy. Heavy metal? It's a nice tone to use sometimes.

          • I read your ad more closely and realized that we agree on a few things. you [do] in fact recognize that IQ has little to do with intelligence. But, not to worry, because I accidentally hit the 'liked' button underneath your statement. This will further validate your social standing within the metal community. when lots of people agree with you it mean you are doing something right. I feel compelled to ad one small tidbit to my response…..one which I feel is significant. I have noticed that when I call liberal activists out on a particular market or culture they inevitable tell me I'm 'stereotyping' people. Perhaps, you didn't read [my] statement too clearly yourself, or perhaps you simply can't comprehend it. So I'll restate. It is the nature of cultures to establish a norms for behavior and sustain itself through the methodical slaying of progressive thought, ideas, innovation, reinterpretation, and new questions. So your accusation that, by holding a mirror up to such things, I am as myopic as those I condemn is completely invalid. What have you to gain? Who are you serving? How afraid are you of driving a stake through the heart of mindless, openly limited, imbeciles who consistent;y show one color and one color only. This page, for instance, is predominantly overran by members of but one sociomusical culture…..and do you see many of them exhibiting any of the precepts you yourself laid out as a more relevant means of determining one's true intelligence?
               In my perfect world people should be people, free to think and do what they want. they should not stereotype themselves. In such a perfect world it would be appropriate, then, not to stereotype others. But the real world is simply not the way we would like it to be. 'Man is a social creature' carries with it a price. One can no longer embrace one's authenticity (in it's most peculiar context) and one must consider compromising one's logic, least they suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune. I'm sure you know all of this, however. I don't expect you to agree with me. This could be detrimental to you. I am foul. I am mean-spirited. I am a fascist. I put people in boxes. I will never be a success. I've got it all wrong. How can you tell? You look at the thumbs. When they are pointing upwards you know your doing something right. You look at the grades: A's are better than B's and B's are better than C's. You can go places when you earn your degrees. You look at the friends. When a person has many you know they have the right stuff, especially when the friends say flattering things about them. It means a lot.. And, when they give more thumbs up it means more. More. What's good for most is what's right. By drawing people inside a box you could seal your fate, even if that box is real. Even if you despise boxes.

          • @Ihatefascists :  it seems baffling that you'd be so critical of anyone who listens to metal yet profess to (like me) play the music. Therefore you must have considered yourself 'metal' at some point. The term 'self-hating' comes to mind.

                Is there truth to what you're saying? Sure-  the metal stereotype exists for a reason, like most others. But as withother stereotypes, it is highly exaggerated and does not hold true as a blanket statement. As a case in point, see my occasional posts on the old blog, 'Everybody's Metal' (for example: http://skolnotes.blogspot.com/…  I'll grant that you have an interesting perspective and no one can accuse you of 'towing the party line.'  But I'm not sure why your points have to made in such a generalized, knee-jerk manner.

                  Ann Ad-I:  Very well said.

          • Metal, for me, is a bottle of cumin. Metal New Age, Metal Jug Band, Metal Raga, Metal smooth Jazz, Metal Moody Blues Etc. Maybe no or not metal at all. You do what you can do with that [sound]. I love Hawkwind.   But this isn't about me, it is about a wonderful CD that Loutallica made called Lulu. I'm holding a mirror up to those who jerk our knees and generalize people.
               Life is short and you can embrace things or push them aside. I choose to embrace all the visual metaphors that lay before me, as long as I'm allowed to  build some negative space with my bottle of white out and work into each image one with multi-colored crayons. If you choose to view this as an act of self-loathing then so be it. Everyone has an end. Perhaps yours is 'success', and we all know what that's about.

          • Oops, i hit you 'like' button' again. Now your more likeable. Your welcome. Anyway, yea…..kiss his ass like they all do. A matter of fact, what reason does this page have yo exist other than to draw attention to the celebrity who provided it for us. His fans get to  simultaneously touch greatness while healing the wounds caused by Lulu, which has defaced their heroes which once preached proudly upon the pulpit.
               You are obviously intelligent but have taken the low road by responding to my insights (which you know damn well are quite valid and sound) and calling me names not dissimilar to the one's psychiatrists might use. Perhaps my trolling could be a source for romantic bonding or just professional exaltation for both of you. It's financially, intellectually and physically feasible.
               So, don't feed the troll. Don't buy Lulu. Act as if I'm not here. Let's talk about cliff and the REAL Metallica album which will be coming out later this year. And, with regards to sheep, nobody
            whose identity and livelihood depends on mass patronage is going to be
            converted. I’m too cool a person to allow myself to
            become just another blabbering pseudonym and foolish for trying.

          • Highly exaggerated? The mere use of paragraphs is an understatement when you search the internet, especially Youtube, and see what you fraternity are spewing forth with a vitriol comparable to radical Islamism. Your 'liberal' defense of self-steriotypers just doesn't work any more. Yes Alex and hot Asian intellectual — your metal army are predominently infantile, intolerant, sheep-like trolls. These are the people who feed your livelihood. These are the people you represent. How does that make you feel?
               Anne, you would like to convince me of all of the sophisticated worldly metal heads you meet at all of the shows you attend. Well, I'm twice your age and have been to twice as many shows. All I've encountered are one-dimensional dumbfucks who revile in their fascism and look upon people like me with tolerance enough not to slice my throat. They simply act as if I do not exist. I've seen it in New York, I've seen it in Japan and I've seen it in L.A. Logic is global. The pathologies which define and feed the markets are religious.
               Some lemons are sweet, but shall we refrain from calling them bitter to account for the few exceptions? I'm sorry for being so aggressive, but feel like I was provoked and I don't take shit from people. You should be ashamed of yourselves for lying…..lying to the metal population who need to be shown better and lying to outcasts like myself who are intimately related to the cosmos (by choice). You should be ashamed for lying to yourselves. Though, perhaps, I'm giving you too much credit. Perhaps you simply don't know any better.
               Though you can both write far more succinctly than myself, your hearts may not be nearly as lucid…..your commitments may not be nearly as noble (with all due respect to practicality). I'm going to leave you alone because it's obvious we don't like each other. Anger is not something I aspire to. I mustn't ever read any more critical analysis' of Lulu because it will rarely restore my faith in the heavy metal community. I would rather channel my life force into things which please God.
               I was naive and foolish to expect your would condone the thoughts of an outspoken non-leader. Can you convince a professor of philosophy that he is inhibiting one's basic ability to observe things? No. Thus, I will always contend that music communities are, in fact, enemies of mine. I despise retro 60's fascists, New Age fascists, Acid Folk fascists, Blues fascists, Opera fascists, Avante Garde Fascists, Punk rock fascists, Psychedelic fascists etc. These are just markets and they'll probably spawn things which are marginally to hardly exciting.
              And, yes, to discuss Lulu without discussing Patronage is decaffeinated discourse. Totally useless.

          • “Stereotyping' is something people voluntarily do to themselves. “Steriotypes” are benefical social instituions that requires an individuals participation. Why call Enemyofstyle 'elitest' and 'mean-spirited' because he has cited the existence of sheep who truly exhibit such traits. I'm surprised that someone who is supposed to be intelligent would side with the herd like that. Female privilege is, perhaps, not without a price……and, perhaps, you'd feel equally compelled to tell me that a woman's function in social circles is not necessarely akin to glue. Although you needn't side with Enemyofstyle, you shouldn't make the grave mistake of 'blaming the messeneger'. that is a direct insult to your own 'intelligence'.

      • If a pack of snakes lay proudly beneath a blanket, with a few remaining
        one's unable to fit in or merely isolated by choice, would you deny
        someone the right dignity of stating the truth about what he saw
        underneath that blanket? Mr. Skolnick, with all due respect, to invalidate that which is even clear to yourself, then have the mitigated gall to call Enemy of Style ignorant is horribly cruel. One cannot begin to address The Party until one recognizes that The Party exists in the first place. I wouldn't recommend you do it though. As for the metal culture having low IQ's, I can't say I've met many metal geniuses. I say this with particular regard to the fans. I would go so far as to say that there is a palpable lack of cultural sophistication, aesthetic sensibility and openness to change in the heavy metal culture. To discuss Lulu without dissecting heavy metal culture is to overlook the central gist of what Lulu, intentionally or unintentionally has done best. Lulu, for me, has done (if nothing else) an excellent job of exploiting the type of people who subscribe to heavy metal culture. Does it detract from the content found in heavy metal music? Yes, when you consider that which is most critically acclaimed amongst connoisseurs of the genre 'succeeds'. Though, in all fairness, ALL genres (like all religions and institutions themselves) cater to lesser minds. There is a word for it, 'mass appeal'. Even children qualify where such demographics are concerned. Thank God. I want to thank Enemy of Style for stating the obvious and would like to see more people speak out and don't be afraid of being politically incorrect when the truth comes in the form of millions of ball-peen hammers virtually shattering Lulu to pieces, throwing them on a fire, then taking a communal on the remains. It does reality itself a horrible injustice. Voice your unpopular opinions free peoples. Totalitarianisms are for fools. Music is for Us. Strength in numbers. Make your unpopular voices be heard! There is so much to do for free in the posthuman age in our humble abodes. The elitists, who have been known to identify Us as such (in defense of themselves) perpetuate mediocrity out of fear and denial. Let them have their thumbs up, their plentiful oral service and their fortunate fan bases. We, who are societies dirt, have better things to do.

  32. That was a fantastic review, Alex. Much respect to you for taking the time and writing such a supportive commentary in the name of art.

    I think the easiest thing to say is what an awful album Lulu is, But trying to really understand what it tries to achive is a whole different story. I agree with those who claim that Lou Reed and Metallica totally sound like two seperate entities moshed together in a very unnatural way, but while most people see this as a major flaw, i actually think of it as a very interesting, unique and unorthodox form of art which serves the sole purpose of reflecting the nature and spirit of the play. The album maintains consistency with its own asthetic approach and its own logic. It doesn't follow any set of rules and this is what art should be all about.

    For me, Lulu feels very disjointed and fragmented: The lyrics are awkward, disconnected and self-contradictory ( “I want so much to hurt you/ i want you as my wife”), the mix in the album emphasizes the distance between Lou and Metallica, even the limbless Lulu figure on the cover – all of this delivers a great sense of dissonance throughout the album.
     
     People should understand that this is not a regular riff-driven Metallica album but rather a concept-driven one. Here the music serves the concept unlike most metal albums in which lyrics plays only secondary role. Hence, if, for example, you pay more attention to the Lulu character, her psychology, her self-loathing and the impossible abusive relations she has with the men in the play, then musically, the connection between lou and Metallica starts to make alot more sense.

    • You and a few other folks on this blog seem to have a grasp on the 'Lulu' play which is probably extremely helpful for really 'getting' the album (if, indeed, that is possible). I don't pretend to have been so culturally enlightened to have already been familiar with the play, the opera or German Expressionism in general, for that matter.   But I (and I have a feeling, others as well) will pay more attention when they come across the entities, in person or on-line,  purely as a result of the 'Lulu' controversy. For example, when I was in the Milwaukee Art Museum a few days ago,  they had a
      roomful of German Expressionist prints. I made sure to go and take a look. I'm enjoying the increased awareness that the album is causing, even though, at this point, I feel no desire to crank the music.

      • There was a pretty amazing collection of Expressionist prints & paintings at MOMA this summer too. Did you catch that? Stepping away from The Scream to consider Munch's “Madonna's” was enthralling. The confrontational treatment of sex, self-loathing, and melancholy was totally brave, funny, cringe-inducing, beautiful– especially given the cultural mores of the time. Was the MIlwaukee exhibit good too? 

        (Saw the Testament show there, and it was stellar.)

        If nothing more than these conversations comes from the Lulu album, it was a giant success. How nice to read/hear people delving into substance and learning new ways to look at any creative piece going forward. Even “simple” music has the power to elevate us. Love.

        • Milwaukee exhibit was a small room of B&W prints, many scenes of brothels, very ugly characters. But I could clearly see the connection. Missed the Expressionist collection at MOMA, unfortunately.

            >If nothing more than these conversations comes from the Lulu album,
          it was a giant success. How nice to read/hear people delving into
          substance and learning new ways to look at any creative piece going
          forward.

               Agreed.

          • This is a  GIANT Blog Best for you Alex and really hits the mark-et of extreme, creatively constructed communication so rich and full of interesting lines and forms of thought provoking shapes, overflowing and ever long, whose aesthetic is reflected in the beauty of the collective experience of reading it! yes,yes,yes, more, more more……

    • > For me, Lulu feels very disjointed and fragmented: The lyrics are
      awkward, disconnected and self-contradictory ( “I want so much to hurt
      you/ i want you as my wife”), the mix in the album emphasizes the
      distance between Lou and Metallica, even the limbless Lulu figure on the
      cover – all of this delivers a great sense of dissonance throughout the
      album.

            This part of your post brings this thought to mind: it's interesting to me that when Metallica was a hard edged, fast living band in the 80's, the music was razor sharp and precise (at least the riffs and vocals). Yet now that they are older, well off and in the case of James-whose guitar and vocals are the main source of sound-completely sober, they are interested in doing this music that is the complete opposite in terms of being sonically palatable.

            >the Lulu character, her psychology, her self-loathing and the impossible abusive relations she has

            Could this describe some of the things Metallica has gone through as a band over the years? Hmmmm

      • Sonically unpalatable? To who? The army? Oh my God, i'm sorry, but you people are so fucking limited. Metal enthusiasts reviewing a metal album which attempts to take a baby step forward, then get's virtually accosted like it's some completely crazy thing won't get anybody anywhere. The album is a collection of simply played, well thought out metal music with poetry and some neat avante-garde sounds now and then. It's stylistically completely in line with your choice cuts of meats to my unfashionable ears. I just can't accept any of these these opinions as being relevant to art/music as it exists in the cosmos, the only context to consider such things. The filter through which it's being channeled through is all to obvious and makes these reviews an alienating read for me. Rather hear some misplaced beatniks discuss it. I mean, you people really need to broaden your musical horizons. The Swans have been doing a far less accessible version of Lulu for the past 30 years. and who here even thought of bringing them up?

    • Why do connoisseurs of metal have to be spoken down to like petulant 5th graders who have a penchant for bullying? I'm sorry. It's like you people have no brains. Your like cartoon enthusiasts who cringe when they see some rather good impressionistic art…..or cubism, or montage or surrealism. Or, in this case, brutal realism. The fact that people within the cracks of society who have little in common interest-wise and still manage to create meaningful things is, in itself, brutally realistic. And your claim that  'the music is disjointed' (which it is not) only illustrates your inability to comprehend very much that even subtly defies metal protocol. Are you people [that] anal?
             A few years ago I had to defend myself in court and my girlfriends brother, a heavy metal enthusiast, defended me. A month or two later I noticed I was being trolled all over the internet by someone who was taking my pictures and scribbling homophobic remarks on them, denouncing my talent and going on drunken rampages about what a self-indulgent shit-spewing delusional musician I was. Anyway, to make my point, two years down the line I found out that the person trolling me was (ironically) my lawyer. Evidently he didn't like me and resented representing me on behalf of his sister. Hmm, I wonder if the fact that he loved heavy metal was somehow related.
            When Loutallica put out Lulu it was like deja-vu. Reading the comments of Metallica fans I felt like I was experiencing the same thing all over again. I felt empathy for Loutallica. Though, I bet it was probably a lot easier for [them] to come to terms with all the abuse if they bothered paying any mind to them at all. When i played in heavy metal bands I was routinely steriotyped and mocked because I didn't act or dress like the typical metal dude. All of this leads me to believe that the heavy metal community does not dignify itself to being treated as anything less than a bigoted, overly-logical, overbearingly succinct culture of intellectually challenged morons.
             I'm sure there are exceptions, but they are probably few. So perhaps I will pass next time a documentary on VH1 Classic wants to promote how The Stooges, The MC5 and Little Richard influenced heavy metal. Why? The style and the culture (as it has existed for the past 25 years or so) is about as tolerant as a bar that features country music and authentic line dancing. Salsa clubs are no better and I love salsa. Unfortunately, the culture (like heavy metal culture) seems overly taken by male machismo and females whose claims to  intelligence may often be dubious as their claims to diversity. People don't subscribe to religions and cultures to find out about other religions and cultures.
             Markets themselves are double-edged swords. Artists who capitalize off of them are bound to be stabbed in the back by their devotees when they are done catering to demand.
             That said, it is interesting to ponder those who crtique Lulu on purely literary terms or purely stylistic terms. I don't see how either culture of criticism will be pleased with this album. It's like a great rock album and rock has always been sensualistic. The fact that Lou didn't bother enlisting his wife to do the female voices is enough to render the literary execution inferior, despite the merits (or, as some would have it, shortcomings) of the Lou's verbal confections. To me his lyrics are a tonal wash encompassing the extremism of metal culture from a psychological perspective. All forms of commitment are as extreme as they are inherently contradictory. Musically, the performances are what you expect from heavy metal musicians: largely pigheaded…..mixed with what you don't usually expect from heavy metal musicians: a little bit of space, a little bit of intuitive playing, extended ambiant bits and massively likable riffs and progressions which are definitely their own.
             Nothing new, nothing that old. Relevant (in a relative way). Almost unique. Most of all, it's defiant. If more people defied the markets which house our consumerist habits we might actually come close to achieving the epic rennaisance spirit of much of 60's music. This is a really good thing. This alone should make Lulu a awesome entry into the world of music. Awesome entry into the world of metal? Obviously (as determined by those who patronize and, ultimately, define it) “NO”.

  33. Thanks, Alex, for probably putting more thought  into this creation than the artists themselves did.  I think it's worthy of mentioning that Lulu is far more Reed's vision than it was Metallica's.  If I read one more interview in which Hammett states, “Lou doesn't like solos…” 

    However unlistenable as Lulu is, I sincerely hope that Metallica doesn't come out at some point in the future and state that it was a mistake on their part to release it.  As a music lover, I really, really hate when artists do that.  Artists never know what will resonate with fans (if they did, they'd never release a poor selling album, right?), and for fear of sounding melodramatic, something in me dies when a musician verbalizes dislike for a particular song or album of theirs that I love.  Examples of this include Mustaine's views on “Risk” and, more recently, members of Lamb of God have verbally bashed, to some extent, their '06 release, “Sacrament.”  I like songs from both albums, especially Sacrament.  Besides the disappointment I feel when artists bash their own work, I'm suspicious of their motives for doing so.  Do they really hate this work, and if so, why did they release it?  For commercial purposes only?  Or are they just trying to win back fans who verbalized dislike for it in the hopes fans won't penalize them by boycotting future works of theirs?  Either explanation doesn't wash with me.

    Metallica – you produced Lulu.  Stand by it.  Own it.  Now move on.

    • >If I read one more interview in which Hammett states, “Lou doesn't like solos…” 

          I remember reading that in the Velvet Underground, they had a rule that no one was allowed to play a 'blues lick.' This turned me off from them at the time, but now, I see where they were coming from, at least for their own music.

          I agree they shouldn't ever come out against it and doubt they will (although you never know, one could say he didn't think it was a good idea). Ringo Starr has expressed reservations about the White Album (the double album, the white cover, the experimental tracks 'Revolution 9' etc…). But everyone else, McCartney especially, stands behind it. As a fan, I can't imagine it any differently, but I can see it must have been very radical for the time.

           With Testament, some of us have expressed reservations about the production on certain albums, but rarely the songs.

  34. Hi Alex, you're one of the best guitarrist of this planet, maybe far and beyond too. I'm a huge, huge fan of Metallica, and this proyect doesn't change my respect and love for the band. If the people don't like, no problem, don't buy it. I not interest by the moment, to purchase this record, but who knows, in twenty years the album become a icon for some generations of musicians and artists.

    • That's right, no one is being forced to listen to it. In 20 years, it may be considered 'iconic' or a 'failed experiment,' but I have a feeling it will be respected either way.

  35. I am very curious about this album with all the buzz about it, but hesitant to give it a listen until I am in a certain frame of mind. I find this with a lot of music. While metal and rock are my mainstays (I grew up on Kiss, having been introduced to them at the age of seven by my uncle), I do venture out of those genres, but it happens when the mood calls for it. If I try to listen to the blues when I'm not in the mood, I don't *feel* it. I think if I listened to this album when I was in the mood for something more traditional, the experience would be lost. It's kind of like Christmas music: How many people listen to it in June?

    • Not sure how anyone can listen to Xmas music in June, either (but know some who do). Maybe I'm just sensitive, but I really have to be in the right mood for different types of music. Sometimes it's affected by time of year and very often, it's affected by time of day. In fact, I wrote a post on this a while:   http://skolnotes.blogspot.com/

      • Thanks for directing me to this post. To add to it further, I believe some music to be seasonal beyond Christmas, as well as time of day. For example, I crave Seasons In The Abyss in the hotness of summer. Extreme's “Color Me Blind” from their third album is perfect in the dark morning of a star-filled sky. Then of course, Rob Zombie's Hellbilly Deluxe is Halloween personafied.
        My long drive to work in the wee morning hours allows for another layerof music: Listening without visual stimulus. It gets me closest to it without actually having played it myself. And really heavy music at that time CAN get you motivated to handle the stresses of the work day you know are inevitable.
        So, what time of day for lulu?

    • Great recommendations. Somehow I'm not surprised that John Zorn has ventured into Lulu territory. He's someone that would shock audiences if he did anything remotely accessible (I recommend people check out his 'Naked City' project, with the warning that it's not for everyone).

  36. Thanks for directing me to this post. To add to it further, I believe some music to be seasonal beyond Christmas, as well as time of day. For example, I crave Seasons In The Abyss in the hotness of summer. Extreme's “Color Me Blind” from their third album is perfect in the dark morning of a star-filled sky. Then of course, Rob Zombie's Hellbilly Deluxe is Halloween personafied.
    My long drive to work in the wee morning hours allows for another layerof music: Listening without visual stimulus. It gets me closest to it without actually having played it myself. And really heavy music at that time CAN get you motivated to handle the stresses of the work day you know are inevitable.
    So, what time of day for lulu?

  37. I agree 100 percent Alex, as far as music goes it would be an understatement to say that the album was lack, but as art in all sense of the word it deeply touches me and I find it truly beautiful. I look forward to reading more of your blogs Alex, from what I've already read we seem to share common thoughts and opinions on a lot of things.

    • I believe you may be the first to use the word 'beautiful' to describe the album, but viewing it purely as an art project, anything is possible. Glad you're enjoying the posts, Logan. Welcome aboard.

  38. I enjoy this, Its great its different, its challenging the norm. I understand why people dont like it, theyre expecting puppets or lightning, which they wont get. It also shows me how close minded everyone is, i mean its all an opinion. And Alex you are right, to define  it has amazing, and at times its hard to listen to but these guys are so far in their career they can throw curveballs at their fans and if they like it, who cares. Someone will. I did, I enjoy when bands try new things, like Load and Reload, some liked it, some didnt. But it seems like everyone just does not let bands change their sound or do what they want. But nonetheless this is probably the best review of this piece of 'art' ive seen all across the internet. and you are right Metal machine Music did inspire a ton of electronic and ambient artists, ive listened to metal machine Music, I think its cool. But also Metallica has never really done a collaborative album, and it is very weird to think “Metallica and Lou Reed?” It is crazy, but hey I got a lot of respect for Metallica, they are legends in their own right, I was actually glad a real musician commented on this album.

    • Glad you like the review. I was getting tired of everyone bashing and saying 'this sucks!' etc… without putting into any context whatsoever. Not a big fan of Load and Reload personally, they felt almost too accessible to me somehow. But by doing this album, which is a curveball if there ever was one, I seem to relate to what they're going for, even though I'm not going to put it on the way I would the early albums.

      • Well I am a big fan of load and reload, but those albums arent for everyone, since they tried something new. And not many particurlarly liked it. But its all opinion,  I was sick of hearing people saying it sucked, and 'this is shit' 'lou reed killed metallica' blah blah. Im glad you put some insight from a musicians point of view, not just an average metalhead on the street or critic, this is from a musicians point of view. I was very pleased with this, Though I have seen some good reviews on the interent their rare, because no one gets what this album is about, but its all opinion.

  39. Thanks everyone for all the commentary on this post (a record for the SkolNotes blog!). Now before anyone decides I'm some sort of serious or snooty art type: let me point out that I do see plenty to make fun of in the art world. These things are very well encapsulated in the comedy 'Untitled,' which does to art what 'This Is Spinal Tap' did to hard rock. Highly recommended.   Enjoy:  http://untitled-themovie.com/

  40. Totally disagree with Lulu being 'almost unlistenable'. Maybe you should bother to listen a couple of times more closely. I am sure the album will last as a very strong poetical and musical statement. It's the only album I played since it came out. First time, I must admit, I hated most of it. But some parts had struck me. So I had to hear them again. And again. Starting with Little Dog (astonishing), Iced Honey (a flavour of Velvet) and Junior Dad (its time with the slackening extra ticks, the gracious guitar lines, Reeds performance, which is much more melodic and intense than most reviewers get). Now I am definitely hooked. I enjoy most of it, many parts still giving me goose bumps. Junior Dad drones on for 20 minutes, but I like every second of it.The NRC (a Dutch quality paper) called Lulu the worst rock album ever. They must have lost their way. It may not be the best one either, but it will survive. Time will tell. And by the way: Lou Reed is the best lyricist in rock music.

    • You're probably right, and I'm planning to give the album some more listens. If I were to write this post over, I might use a term like 'difficult to digest' in place of 'unlistenable.'

           > The NRC (a Dutch quality paper) called Lulu the worst rock album ever. They must have lost their way. It may not be the best one either, but it will survive. Time will tell.

             I think you're right about that. They (the paper you mention) are not even trying to understand it from any perspective.

  41. “Think about it: Lou Reed and the world’s biggest heavy metal band get together, bond over German expressionism, create an almost unlistenable album and release it to the world? If that’s not art, I don’t know what is.”

    The problem with this approach to art is that it confuses audience participation with artistic merit; and in doing so encourages artists to increasingly waste their unique gift of art, because they don't need to apply it at all… An enthusiastic amateur in the audience will always see great art in what ever is put before them, because what they will witness is EXACTLY concordant with their own inspirations and understanding of art, because that's exactly where the content is actually coming from.

    And we live in an era where we are encouraged to have an opinion on, and believe we have a right to expound upon almost everything. In this sense, Lulu is as many have commentated so far, no more “art” than absolutely anything else you can name. “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” is art, because people cannot look away, and cannot resist commentating on it. And some of the commentary is really, really good, apposite, powerful… not because of the original product, but because some of the commentators themselves are. And would be irrespective of the program.

    But that's not why we need artists; their role is to inspire us, teach us, open the doors to something we ourselves fall short of for now… . And that goes even for bands like Metallica. As a teenager, it was their awesome power, tightness, phrasing and social consciousness that appealed to me. Could I have done that? No! Do I wish I could? Yes! Did it inspire me to hone my own talents and open up such evocative emotional doors myself somehow? Certainly! That's true art. It opens the door to the transcendent.

    And where “Metal Machine Music” differs from “Lulu” in turn is that the first was a genuine artistic experimentation in new, potentially powerful techniques, later proven by the artists that followed. And Lulu most assuredly is not. It pioneers no new style, instrument or technique. It's unlistenable because it's a shambolic vocal performance from Reed, whilst Metallica pound out half-baked jam sessions and shout about the infamous table. The table! The table! The table is not art, it's not edifying or inspiring… it's embarrassing.

    We can think about the bravery in the act of releasing such an album yes; but again, they could have put anything out and got the same quality of debate… which in turn further obscures the Artist themselves; are they being deliberately terrible, or do they no longer care? Can they even create art anymore?. I've not watched “Some Kind of Monster”, and Metallica's music lost me around the Black album era (although I saw them tour it at Sheffield Arena that year); I know James and Lars now through the Napster debacle, through critical dislike of Load/Reload and hatred of St.Anger and today because of Lulu; voices that agree with my own suspicions, justify me in thinking I don't NEED to listen to Metallica any more. And such criticism manages to out shout all the reasonable voices like on this thread. Is that fair? Is it an accurate representation of the musicians in Metallica? Who knows any more? Who CAN know? If they'd put out another Master Of Puppets, it would be a moot point; great art defends itself, and through it, justifies and praises the artist. But putting out a Lulu leaves us with a Lulu, and what ever the audience is now muttering they think it tells us about the artist…

    Is this what we want our art and our artists to really become? The ID of the non-artist is often a many bittered thing, and empty art will often be nothing more than this.

    • “And we live in an era where we are encouraged to have an opinion on, and
      believe we have a right to expound upon almost everything. In this
      sense, Lulu is as many have commentated so far, no more “art” than
      absolutely anything else you can name. “Real Housewives of Beverly
      Hills” is art, because people cannot look away, and cannot resist
      commentating on it. And some of the commentary is really, really good,
      apposite, powerful… not because of the original product, but because
      some of the commentators themselves are. And would be irrespective of
      the program.”

         This paragraph epitomizes everything i despise about metal aficionados. You are truly elitist because you set a barre gaiged by distinctions, if not sheer technicality. You think you know it all. And your [so] pompous that you think you know what good and bad art is. Early Metallica did not inspire ME. I plopped Master of Puppets in my car cassette player and knew right away what that was.it didn't interest or concern me. I'd heard brilliant bands use metal tones and make far more original music. Live skull, Rat at Rat R, Mighty Sphincter, Die Kreutzen, Ruin etc.
         I enjoy a lot of the free sax like noises Kirk and James coax out of their guitars on Lulu as well as the morphing stereo harmonies. This master work is against the very grain of conventional metal aesthetic.The music is borne from feeling. Nature, intuition and guttural male sexual drive is directly manifested in the music. The sexual dynamic which lies at the underbelly of metal culture is addressed explicitly through the agitprop of Lulu.
         Art should be unique, come by mistake, breathe and flow. Heavy metal is stiff and anal — riffs that are half step assembly line sequences architecturally mirroring the linear minds that made it. Linearity as power? As art? I find Lulu awesome exhibiting power, tightness, phrasing and social consciousness without the prosyltizing posturing of early Metallica. How hypocritical to sing about masters and puppets when your wearing the same hairstyle, same stitched-at ankle-by-metal-bimbo jeans, using the same guitar tone and same chordal and moduar ideas that every other metal band was using?
         I despise the way you people (yes you people, as in cultists) talk down about Lulu, even determining it to be barely listenable, when people like myself welcome a sonic stake through the heart of a bloated and conceited institution. Having the aesthetic acumen and discipline to play “Pumping Blood” (for instance) requires just as much 'talent' as any of the most complex metal drills known to mankind. This would dispel your notion that, “an enthusiastic amateur in the audience will always see great art in
      what ever is put before them”.
          You think you know it all? I'll blow you away with half my fingers missing. Music is MY Life and I appreciate the contributions of Loutallica. Don't dis them and don't dis people who may prefer them greatly over Metallica. It's far more interesting and compelling to my ears. And far more honest. Metal musicians generally lack groove. Not on Lulu. Listen to “Iced Honey”. Great rock and roll. Love James 'natural' vocals. The albums about feeling and lies diametrically at odds with what 99% of metal is about.
          Lulu should be piped through intercoms througout every shopping mall, supermarket, pornshop, catholic and parochial school. Nonstop. Lulu is about every mans reason for existing. Lulu is the reason metal even exists. Every marriage, every divorce, every last dying word from a man whose last years were spent jerking off to porn sites which ridiculed the size of his penis and trolling Craigslist to be extorted in the name of love. You want to hear the truth straight from the decrepid smoldering mouth of the decaying master? Heed the voice of Lou Reed, dry and shameless, on this very naked album that Loutallica should be VERY proud of

      • I have to admit, I literally sat staring at this response for nearly half an hour, before I could come to terms with the sheer absence of self awareness or sense displayed in this rage filled word salad apparently dragged over 30 years of personal grudges…

        How do you reply to someone who can't even keep their own argument coherent for 6 small paragraphs without having a directly hypocritical or self debasing claim just a few lines away? Who claims, whilst decrying supposed elitism based on technique, to have “blow you away with half my fingers missing” expertise whilst at the exact same time it seems never having actually read the unsubtle lyrics to “Master of Puppets” (it's about drug addiction not conformity), and then ends his green inked letter with the claim that “Lulu should be piped…. Nonstop”, because it's “every mans reason for existing”. Good to know he's not an elitist intolerant lover of conformism then eh?!

        How can you try and reason with someone who is so completely lacking in higher cognitive functions that they keep quoting
        “an enthusiastic amateur in the audience will always see great art in what ever is put before them” and not only do they not stop the assumptions inside their own head long enough to try and cogitate on what “enthusiastic” must mean in context, but reply not just enthusiastically, but with frothing and committed rage themselves that my argument must be wrong because “Someone put Lulu in front of me, and I thought it was great!” 

        Really. What CAN you say to that?!

        You could spend HOURS de constructing this nonsense for the mind boggling idiocy within it; but … and here comes the catch again, that wouldn't mean the original was great art now would it?  It would just be showcasing MY skills in pulling it apart.

        And now here comes the absolute gut wrenching kicker; It still could be an attempt at art, I suppose. It could be someone trying out Trolling Performance Art… And I'd like to hope that it was, because think about the idea of a genuinely somewhere near 50+ man being so consumed by his own inner demons that he drags them across the decades and allows it to befuddle his mind so badly today online, well… it's heart breaking isn't it? 

        Now to apply the claim Alex made earlier, we're still talking about it, right?! He's made a splash, right? But then if we're allowing art to be defined by the level of public spectacle and/or response, we're going back to the days when people would pay money to go and laugh at the inmates of Bedlam Asylum and poke them with sticks. That's not an analogy. I mean it.

        Think about it; perhaps this is Dave Mustaine posting? And James Hetfield kicked his dog 30 years ago, oooh he hated that 80s Metallica! But they're all best friends now! Loutallica Rocks! However… Dave Mustaine also has his output with Megadeth to be proud of. So should that be what defines him as an artist, or shall we go watch YouTube videos of him getting weepy and petulant about Metallica's success and laugh at how pathetic he looks in those instead? What is it most people actually DO, in fact? What are YouTube threads really like, with the millions of comments and page hits? What have I done with our very own little NUTSDave above for that matter?

        So I repeat again, just putting anything out, and getting people talking about it is NOT art. And never should be. It's navel gazing at best, and Bedlam abusing at worst. As a wise man once said; “Shut up and play!” And judge their art on what and how well they play.

        Or not, in the case of Lulu.

        • Word salad, huh. Ironic. Grudges? Who needs to hold them when you stick to your own. Incoherent? Fill in the blanks — that's why they're there. Imagination. Hypocritical? I think not. My stars are perfectly aligned. My take on you is your a typical left brain met fanatic whose feathers were ruffled by my obviously higher intelligence and sense of real art. Point made : it's a new world and not a right world, requiring wrong things. What you perceive as hypocritical is just the duality manifest in all that Satan is showing us. To be sure, I could care less about your heroes because they were no Beatles. They were not even Mighty Sphincter. I could care less about Dave Mustaine. I could care less about metal. If I could afford to hire Loutallica to play at my upcoming wedding I would. I'd enjoy hanging out with them and talking about art, growing up, possibilities, a long winded culture of transparent criticism and how enjoyable music is when you sacrifice a little. Freedom is only the luxury of the upper class when they can eat sashimi between takes. Only in [this] perspective are Metallica fans half right. They worked their asses off making machine music to be able to do that, so more power to them. Most [my] interesting artist friends are poor.

          • Wow, I was unaware that there was a whole new debate raging in my absence. I see points by the two prime contenders (Ian and Nutsforloutallica) that I agree and disagree with. However, I'm going to have to stay out of this thread for now, as my time is very limited at the moment. Just want to say thank you guys/girls for sharing your thoughts here and hope you continue to do so in future posts.

        • For all of your boast-worthy cognitive abilities it's amazing how
          palpably you lack the ability to freely associate. True mind of an
          artist. You didn't understand a word Nutsforloutallica was trying to communicate. Your so narrow minded that the idea of Lulu actually being art is benign to you. So “Master of Puppets” refers to drug addiction. Thanks for setting the metaphor straight. Now it has a whole new meaning. A bunch of deeply insecure fascists needed heavy drugs because their Identity Music was no longer fulfilling, like their one-dimensional friends. Big fucking difference. Lulu means several things or nothing. To you it's 'trolling'…….to Us it's absurd your even using the word to describe an artist. Like they have nothing better to do. You insult Loutallica when you assume that an agitprop that's artistic/compelling can't have more merit than 'art' that is formulaic/pandering. As for him Nutsforloutallica playing circles around you, well he probably can….but they'll probably run a little slower than your used to. Women like it that way.

        • Dear, Contextually Well Intended. People have the right to interpret your words as they appear to them. As you are (judging from judging your literary skills) a participating member of society, I assume you possess a 'conscious' and 'subconscious'. the language you use, therefore, can stand separately from what you intended to say. But your context is clear. When you use a term like 'enthusiastic amateur' one immediately thinks that you have a clear delineation in your mind concerning what constitutes a professional from who is a 'hack'. The American fixation with 'talent' at the expense of authenticity (relative to individuality) puts left brainers like yourself in the position to talk down from a pulpit. “What pulpit” you say. Exactly. You just don't fucking get it. You know too much. Better for you.
               Spiritual and artistic amateurs make lot's of money these days….especially singers who look really good and sound even better through a vocoder. Welcome to the new reality talent show. Those who need to express themselves outside the envelopes of what has supposedly been decided for them are to be discouraged and humiliated for using music to express themselves. Music should use people and Lulu should be discussed in purely intellectual terms because we, as contributors to the metal community, don't feel a thing. The old faggots voice sucks. It doesn't sound good. Metallica are not tight enough This wouldn't have happened if Cliff were still around. We all have something to learn from it anyway. Let's talk about it.

  42. If you don't really like it why did you bother writing a review in the first place? To show off to all your fans just how articulate and 'open minded' you are? There's so much going on with this CD that to state, “I don't like it” makes me think you should be given another CD to review so we could all say, “THERE now…MIKEY likes it”. Typical of your genre. The word, I believe, is 'classicism. Can't say your review surprises me. Par for the course. For truly open minded and adventurous listeners, this review is much more generous…….without the historical, almost collegiate, baggage.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/ent

    • Despite not liking it initially, it has grown on me, as I suspected it might.  My purpose of writing this post was twofold:  A.  to capture the initial reaction B. a feeling that there might be more to this album than the barrage of
      insults it was garnering ('This sucks' 'Pure crap' etc…etc..) and felt people needed to hear a different perspective.

           I
      felt this perspective might be appreciated and for the most part, it has been.

            I appreciate you sharing the Atlantic review despite your unnecessary hostility.

    • A review is always the opinion of the person writing the review.  This is Alex's blog, so what he reviews on here is his business.   Alex is a musician and he is also an equal contemporary of Metallica.  That makes him more qualified to review this than you, I or some music critic.  Lulu is a very controversial recording and I for one was very interested in what he had to say.

  43. Having heard a significant amount of negative coverage about the album, I decided to have a listen….for those that haven't heard it all, check it out here – http://www.loureedmetallica.co… .

    I do listen to a what I think is a reasonably random selection of music, and I'm confused.  I'm not sure whether it is meant to be as disconnected as it seems on a first listen.  Some of the tracks sound as though anything up to three completely unrelated recordings have been patched on top of each other, regardless of length, tempo or style.  Others sound as though they were written with a common aim in mind. 

    Do I like it?  In places.  Could it have been done better?  Indeed.

    Should this necessarily been pushed as a Lou Reed / Metallica work?  Honestly, I'm not sure.  Personally, I would have expected the album to have been released under a collaborative umbrella name, allowing for potential future collaboration work.  As things stand, it won't be allowed to stand on it's own, instead it will be compared against either Lou Reed's or Metallica's own work, which I think will do it a disservice.

    It is what it is, whether we like or understand it or not.

    Your post is an attempt to see it for what it is, and it makes for interesting reading, as do the comments from previous readers.  The one thing we can probably all agree on, is that it generates a strong opinion.

    • Perhaps you listen to too much heavy metal, Scion. Metal has very little contrast or dimension. Artistically limited and unqualified losers make these comments and it lets me know heavy metal is long dead. they just erect the ballsless carcass out for affirmation when it is required. The wall was erected, the wall stand and those who continue to patronize it will……expecting nor more, no less. The 'heavy metal community' is trodden, stylized and non open to anything which challenges their aural fashions. And through every fault of their own metal heads don't know how to process much of anything else, apparently. The truth? Lulu is a cohesive heavy metal poetry album which uses some space. Refreshing. Lou knows exactly how to undermine the sic-synch'd nature of heavy metal — working his own pentameter into the rhythms. It is a masterpiece. When all men are truly slaves they will begin to appreciate it. Till then we who enjoy it have to bear the unjustified criticisms of culturally limited losers like yourself who probably don't even know who Hawkwind is.

  44. Great read and an interesting take on this album and what it's all about!  I felt I had to post my perspective on this album as I am one of the few who actually really like this album.  I am a long-time Metallica fan and especially love their thrash albums from the 80s, but I also like all their material, except some songs off the Loads and St Anger.  However, upon first listen, this album was very confusing to me.  I wasn't expecting a Metallica album as this is not.  But, Lou Reed's poetic, not really singing, caught me off guard, as I was trying to enjoy the music.  So, I put on headphones and listened again, just listening to the music itself and WOW, there are a lot of great parts in here that you could build songs around, but some areas were disjointed and sounded more like noise.  However, after reading about the story of Lulu, and what it's all about, and listening again, I grew to appreciate the brilliance of this project.  It is truly a masterpiece that most don't get upon first listen but over time, will be considered as such I believe.  When you actually “listen” to this album and think about the story of Lulu, hear the lyrics of Lou Reed (brilliant lyrics I must say), and then listen to the music as played by Metallica behind the story of Lulu…WOW!  The music, although it is not your normal song structure, fits the story like a glove.  Metallica goes outside their comfort zone and just lives in the moment and creates these musical landscapes to fit the lyrics of Lulu.  It's an amazing atmosphere and based on where we are in the story, the music does a great job of creating the mood and atmosphere to reflect the story quite well!  So, yes, it is art!  I used to be a strict so-called “metalhead” but I am so glad that as I got older, I started to expand my musical tastes.  Go in with an open mind, read the story behind Lulu, read the lyrics and just listen and drown yourself in the atmosphere.  And when you do, you will too hopefully one day realize the brilliance behind it!

    • I'm still not sure it's a masterpiece, but only time will tell. It's certainly one of the most interesting recorded projects to happen in a long time!

  45. I'll be honest, the first time I heard the view, I immediatly shut off the computer it was so bad. But after reading a bunch of these reviews, I decided to give it another listen with more of an open mind and thought that it was ok and it was relevant to the story it was trying to tell. It was slow, dark, painful and all round negative but I'm pretty sure that what it was trying to portray. I've come to the realisation that this album is supposed to be disturbing just like the play. Will I own this album? Definatly not but it is an interesting one, maybe one I'd analyse in an english, It'd be much better than “The Catcher in the Rye”. I find that people are using stereotypes and pointless comments and judgements a little too much in their arguments, yes I do agree that metal heads are closed minded like many say, I know I am even though I try not to be, but who isn't things like these are all about taste, if you like it, you like it, if you don't, then you don't, there's really no need for people to go on bashing others due to their personal preferences.

    • I agree that there are some very close-minded metalheads out there, but people do change. And no matter what anyone says, it was extremely bold of those guys to do this album and that same boldness is what created those few Metallica albums that all their fans can agree on.

  46. I really wanted to like Lulu.  I am actaully a fan of both Metallica and Lou Reed.  I've tried to listen to it several times, hoping it would grow on me, but it's just not happening.  Expressionism is like that though.  Some people will see value in it, others won't.  After I listened to Lulu, I started thinkig about Jackson Pollock.  I like some expressionist art, but I never cared for him despite his popularity.  To me his work always just looked like splatters of paint.  I couldn't find any deeper meaning.  I feel the same way about Lulu.  It's a big paint splatter.  I do respect Metallica for taking the chance though.  They had to know they would get heat from fans.  The same fans that still bitch because they cut their hair.

    • Good for you for not jumping on the bandwagon and trashing it immediately, like so many.  I still can't say I 'like' it as a something to put on and groove to… but it has grown on me a bit. I've enjoyed examining it publicly and sharing that process with others. I've since changed my initial description from 'almost unlistenable' to 'difficult to digest.'

  47. I envisioned Hetfield polishing his shotgun collection and punching Lars in the stomach again after I read this.  Nice perspective though Alex.

    • From what I've heard, James is !00% behind this project and a big fan of Lou Reed (not sure if he was back in the day).

  48. I think of Lulu as art. It uses metaphore and sonic power to reveal something of the everpresent mystery of life. It's not pretty. It's challenging and risky, like a plunge into the abyss. Art usually tends to be like that. I bow to Lou and Metallica. Their album filled my heart with soul.

  49. Very well written Alex. I appreciate and agree with your point of view about a well established artiste having fun releasing material that is a total antithesis of what the fans are used to already. IMO, it’s almost like philosophy; one can only indulge in contemplation once all the ‘philosopher’s’ basic needs are, not just met, but fulfilled to complete satisfaction. Only then will mental space and time be available for contemplation on something abstract – outside the realm of convention. Thank you.

  50. Hey Alex,

    I know this is a couple of years late(r), but when I saw your tweet yesterday, I decided to give Lulu another chance, hoping to keep my original opinion of it out of the way. I was able to do that to a degree. Here goes my kinda new opinion:

    I originally didn’t and still don’t think it’s art. Having said that, before everyone can agree that it is or is not art, we all have to agree on what we think art is. For some, it’s drawn or sculpted and with colors and shapes. For some it’s performance – stand up comedy or choreographed dancing. For some it’s personal appearance – tattoos or whatever clothing style. For some it’s even edible – goumet food or a $500 bottle of wine. The possible definitions of art are endless, and so I don’t think we all will ever decide that one form is the true art. But being that I’m a music fan and this discussion is about Lou’s and Lars’ musical take on Lulu, I don’t consider the end result (the album) to be art.

    I have read a lot of reviews, comments, blogs about it though, and one new thing I’ve found is that the concept of the collaboration is art. Once I thought of it like that, I was able to agree with that to a point. When I first heard about this project, I couldn’t, for the life of me, wrap my head around it. I’d heard that Lou had asked Metallica to back him on it, and that didn’t make sense to me. I also didn’t bother to do anymore research on it, because I’m not a Lou Reed fan, and I’m one of the Metallica fans that felt alienated by their decision to permanently change (abandon, really) their sound, not just experiment with it. Recently I’d heard that Lars had asked Lou to front the project, which made slightly more sense than the other way around. It didn’t make it anymore listenable for me, but it did make it easier to imagine how the whole thing was conceived. That, I would now consider art. Getting people to talk about it, without necessarily liking or disliking it, without appreciating it or even approving of it, was really an artsy kind of thing to do.

    This is where things get blurry or even contradictive, I’ll admit that. Even though I now agree that the concept itself was artful, (if not the top priority, even over the music itself), it almost seems pointless to have recorded it, much less make it available to the world. What Priest did with Owens was still good, it just wasn’t good Priest. What Maiden did with Bayley was still good, just not good Maiden. In each case, the band made the decision to push forward, knowing some would like it, some wouldn’t. They also knew that while what they were doing was new and different, it wasn’t so far out of the original framework to be considered a controversial move. But they made music. While Lulu is music, by definition, it’s unlistenable, as most everyone who has heard it will agree. Art? Maybe, depending on what art is. Listenable? According to the masses, no. Again, why bother recording it? Because they could? I guess so.

    I don’t think David Bowie gave it any more cred, either. Bowie, like Reed if you think about it, made his living by being unconventional. So what was he supposed to say to the widow of the man for whom the ceremony was being held? “Hey, sorry for your loss, Lou will be missed, he was so original and creative … except for that Lulu thing. Good God, that sucked.”. So he gave his support for the music, going so far as to call it a masterpiece. Not a stretch for Bowie to say that, so I think it would have had more of an impact had Jon Bon Jovi or Snoop Dogg said it to Lou’s widow.

    Anyway, that’s my take on Lulu. I still don’t like it, but I do appreciate the fact that it’s something I spent the past half hour or so writing about. Even if what I wrote makes me appear to be an opinionated asshole.

    Take care.

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