Lulu: Lou Reed, Metallica, And The Sound Of Comment Sections Howling In Protest


The ever-evolving microgenre of “trollgaze” isn’t just limited to whippersnapper up-and-comers. Today we look at one of this week’s most chattered-about albums, the Metallica/Lou Reed collaboration Lulu, to try and deduce one thing: Can a 90-minute double album based off German Expressionist theater and performed by a bunch of dudes who decided they really, really liked each other after jamming in honor of the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame actually be an Internet con? Sound of the City’s highly mathematical analysis, below.

Lou Reed & Metallica, “The View”

THE ARTIST (5 points): A perpetually critic-beloved grouch and a pioneering thrash act that’s constantly accused of “going soft”? Why, this sounds like a match made for inspired pontificating by multiple generations and cliques of rock fans, not to mention quite a few opportunities for “Metallica Machine Music”-level punnery. (5/5)

THE ALBUM (5 points): In the age of the 30-second preview serving as a definition for any piece of recorded music, releasing an album that’s 90 minutes long—and capped by a nearly 20-minute song that closes itself out with a lengthy comedown drone—is itself a ballsy move. But Lulu is so much more than that. Inspired by the character of the same name dreamed up by German playwright Frank Wedekind—in Wedekind’s narrative, she went from being a young and vibrant woman who was the toast of her town to being penniless and washed out and, eventually, killed by Jack the Ripper—and the goings-on in Reed’s head (“Kotex jukebox”!), Lulu layers grotesque imagery narrated in Reed’s nasal voice over by-the-numbers thrashing by Metallica in a way that could charitably be described as “unpleasant”; oftentimes the collaborators sound almost deliberately out of sync, a jarringness that’s heightened by Reed’s vocals being so front-loaded in the mix. That the songs all could be cut by a third and still make their point only adds to the wearying feel. (2/5)

THE (forthcoming) VIDEO (5 points): The official statement on the still-to-be-shot video for “Iced Honey,” which will be directed by Darren Aronofsky: “The avant-garde Reed said he shares [Metallica drummer Lars] Ulrich’s affection for [Pi] as well and he hoped the video ‘can be his next Black Swan.'” Mmm hmm. (3/5)

DIVISIVENESS (5 points): Like a chocolate-in-the-peanut-butter argument over something designed to be… oh, let’s call it antisweet, the Internet discourse on this record has been dominated by eye-rolling critics who are almost too eager to concede the prettiness of “Junior Dad” (see, it’s not a total failure!), head-scratching Metallica fans, and Lou Reed diehards claiming that everyone else is a bunch of philistines. That said, though, it’s not like people are actually buying the thing once they log out of the fighting. (3/5)

VIRALITY POTENTIAL (10 points): Glad you asked. (8/10)

“FUCK THE HATERS” QUOTIENT (10 points): A couple of choice quotes from the New York Times interview with Reed, Ulrich, and Metallica frontman James Hetfield: “I never doubted for a second. No one would go to the trouble of failing.” (Reed.) “This is what I call a great thing. There are people who actually can do that. And everybody else—don’t want to name names—I would say for 99.9 percent, it’s not rock.” (Reed.) (9/10)

BACKLASH POTENTIAL (5 points): Reed at this point has his diehards who will excuse him for anything; it’s not too much of a stretch to think that if Metallica lines up a few more Ride The Lightning-heavy Big 4 shows around the country this episode will be neatly forgotten. (2/5)

THAT EXTRA JE NE SAIS QUOI (5 points): As a teenaged Metallica fan who has little patience for Reed’s post-Velvets output, my first few listens to Lulu were, shall we say, fraught. But in preparation for my Lulu-centric apperance on WNYC’s Soundcheck earlier this week, I listened to the album a lot (especially for something that takes 90 minutes to get through!) and I found myself softening to certain aspects. Hetfield’s bleated interjections certainly didn’t get any less annoying (there’s one point on “The View” where he sounds exactly like the singsong “true stor-ehh” in the credits to The Real World: Los Angeles), but some of the music got, if not pleasant, at least compelling the sixth or seventh time around. Also, I agree with my WNYC foil Phil Freeman: Robert Trujillo’s bass is really this album’s saving grace. And I feel like a bit of a cliché for liking “Junior Dad” best out of all the songs, but in my defense, I’ve been listening to a lot of Ladies & Gentlemen-era Spiritualized lately. (2/5)

TOTAL (a score higher than 35 = trollgaze): 34/50. Not trollgaze. But certainly not for lack of trying. (If only people bought records as much as they argued about them on the Internet!)