Retro-Graded: Old Is New Again/ How Do You Like Them Apples? – Lou Reed and Metallica Make A Record Album (2011)
Here at Reviler we try to maintain a broad wheelhouse for our readership, which is why we are curating a new reoccurring series – Retro-Graded: Old Is New Again!
Retro-Graded will allow Reviler contributors to reexamine past pieces with new eyes, and if the pieces still cut the mustard they are published a-new. Laugh, cry, consider, or just plain browse – what’s old is new again, go ahead. You’ve earned it.
A Word from the Author:
I’m not sure if I’ve published this before, but I’d be surprised if I had. It’s not great. It wasn’t meant to be. I wanted to make myself laugh about the Metallica/Lou Reed record and I did. I’ve made a few contemporaneous changes herein, but otherwise this is the funny. Thank you.
– Adam Johnson
How Do You Like Them Apples?:
Lou Reed and Metallica Make a Record Album
“Lululu – I’ve got some apples
Lululu – You’ve got some, too
Lululu – Let’s get together
I know what we can do, Lulu”
Imagine Jonathan Swift writing a libretto for Wagner. Take into consideration the substantial lapse of space and time, genre, language, and cultural climate
… … …
What a piece of shit, right? Like, at times I know it sounds like it’s working, but then one has to steal themself and think, ‘Wow—that’s a piece of shit!’
Well, if Lou Reed and Metallica can make an album together, why the fuck couldn’t Gulliver find himself scaling Mount Doom with the rest of the bunch, a pulse of bassoons and double-basses keeping his heels digging into the dirt?
Reed’s last gift to our ears was a collaboration with heavy-hitting sell-up-down-in-and-outs Metallica called Lulu (2011). It’s based on a few German plays, and Lou has taken the time to compose his own lyrics around his own personal conceptualization of these plays. The subject is a distraught and abused ballet dancer.
That’s all the context you get. Let’s hit it!
When did Lars Ulrich become a stoned high-school student? All I hear throughout Lulu is the baked-crispy meanderings of an unfocused slacker. Also, understanding how a band records colorizes one’s opinion of that music. It is too easy to the knowledgeable ear to catch the punched-in drum rolls during “Pumping Blood,” but the last few minutes (7 and some change to be precise) are almost worth Ulrich’s amateur thrashings through minutes 3 – 5. Hetfield and Hammett’s guitars make the soundscape a little more interesting through “Blood” and the subsequent “Mistress Dread.”
If only the whole album were up to the standards of this track, hoo-boy. The Met boys bring the mojo hardcore and achieve the effect Reed was going for the entire time, I imagine. And that organ underneath doesn’t hurt, either. If only the power of ‘tallica’s rock could shut Lou up for two seconds, “Mistress Dread” would shine as evidence of time well spent together in the studio. Sounding much like Boris and Acid Mothers Temple coming together, I believe “Mistress Dread” would really sing if Lou Reed simply would not.
And “Iced Honey?” First and foremost, the title alone is a dead giveaway that we are in for a hard time. And when Hetfield comes in underneath Reed like some weird sort of half-second cromagnum delay?
“Cheat on Me,” holds potential as well. Some may ask, ‘When did Metallica become an art band?’ The answer is they didn’t. Not by a long shot.
Sitting down with the boys at first, I bet Reed was adamant about improvisation. When he kept getting the same thing—the underlying melody of sustained feedback, pinched harmonics, and pulsing organ—he figured, ‘What the hell,’ and put a meter to his lyrics that made sense. Without a steady structure and a keenly squared away sense of objective Metallica are about as useful as your older brother’s super-tight (meaning ‘playing all together,’ not the Urban Dictionary definition of the word) heavy-metal wedding band. They seem uncomfortable with the freedom Reed’s ragged vision gave them.
But again, there is potential here. If only Reed had given his old protégée James Osterberg, Jr. a call to shape up the lyrics. Iggy Pop may not have the same aesthetic sensibilities as his uncle Lou, but Jim’s mastery of brevity could have served Reed immeasurably on his latest project.
‘Lou,’ Pop would say, ‘let the music do the talking instead.’
Potential. It seems that’s the lesson of Lulu – ‘you can be anything you want to be as long as you believe.’
What an American album, eh?
That’s right. Two discs worth.
The aptly-titled “Frustration” makes sense for Ulrich’s playing. And I bet he never lets anyone forget that, either. For a few dozen seconds Lou Reed and Lars Ulrich solo together on the same riff—ineptitude. “I don’t have the strength I once had,” Reed…sings (?) on “Frustration,” and he’s right. Maybe he hoped ‘tallica would be a shot of aural Viagra?
“Frustration is my lexicon of hate” – he even quotes the stammered cadence of Bowie’s “Changes.” Coincidence? I think not.
“Spermless like a girl, you’re more man than I” – what sort of crap is this? And Metallica as a band work through the same oblique ineptitude as Reed with their patented brand of chug-chug pace setting, which makes “Frustration” perhaps the best track on the album for shear focus alone.
“Dragon” could also stand on its own two legs if it had to. Although when Reed says, “You don’t actually care,” I’m not too sure if he’s speaking to a character. Perhaps he is speaking as a character?
“I understand, you think you’re above it,” he says later on. Wow. Lou Reed is speaking to Lou Reed via a character of his own creation.
“Oh, you think you’re so special” – stop it, Lou; how are we supposed to give you a hard time if you’ve done all the work for us?
Again, with a title like “Junior Dad,” I’ve already got my foot in the door. And after the first few minutes of composition coloring, it’s also clear that the heavy-metal wedding band is back. A paint-by-numbers melody pokes its head out around two and a-half minutes only to lead right into an ‘and-three-and-four’ pronouncement of distorted guitars and open-cymbal drums. I may be up at three in the morning already, but I’m ready to go to bed; and there’s still eleven minutes left.
So maybe the melody is easy on the ears. I’m at least getting this thing written, aren’t I? This is good tasking music, which I’m sure is not the effect Lou and the Metallicats were hoping for.
All in all, if I were a teacher and Lulu were a group of students’ assignment, I would grade it a C -, based on the students’ previous work.
Adam Johnson lives in Minneapolis with his wife, cats, and guitars.