‘Lulu’: a historical achievement in music

I lost most of my interest in Metallica with the release of their Black Album. In my supersane wisdom and intelligence I saw that they had reached the point of musical no return. Now, after a string of forgettable releases, the band briefly intrigues me once again. If only philosophically.

I have encountered many bad albums in my life, many of them during the time I was working as a music reviewer at the turn of the millenium. I was forced to listen to a number of lousy (and some excellent as well) records in rapid succession. Never again…

A few of the criteria whereby I consider a particular album “bad”:

  1. Blatant and excessive copying of the sound, arrangements, songwriting style etc. of a well-known artist. During my (mercifully short) stint as a reviewer I ran across e.g. numerous second-rate Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, Candlemass, Theatre Of Tragedy and Opeth clones.
  2. Uninspired songwriting relying on mannerisms and genre clich├ęs.
  3. Artist stuck in their trademark formula. For example the recent few albums by Iron Maiden, Amorphis, Megadeth, Opeth (pre-Heritage) and every Slayer release.
  4. Artist straying too far from their strengths, into musical styles and genres clearly unsuitable for them. Example: Paradise Lost going Depeche Mode.

Despite these failings, all of the albums I have heard and consider “bad” still feature at least mediocre musicianship and execution. Clearly some time has also been spent by the artists on planning and writing the recordings.

Apparently not so with Lulu, the puzzling collaboration between Lou Reed and Metallica. This album seems very interesting to me, as I think it is the only unlistenably SHIT album I have ever heard. Not only does the songwriting sound extremely uninspired, but also the whole musical execution. The basic problem: the styles of the two artists don’t fit together at all. With different backing music this Lou Reed project could have been merely bad or possibly even OK. But on this album, it seems to me as though no preproduction or even rehearsing took place before hitting record. Really peculiar and inexcusable.

I think the end result is far beyond bad and not in a good way…as formerly I tended to see the quality of music forming an axis, with “good/bad” at one extreme and “mediocre” on the other. So “mediocre” was the negative end in my personal little diagram. I won’t call it a table, as that position has already been taken…

With the existence of Lulu I have to rethink that model, maybe forming it into a non-Euclidean triangle or wossname. Or perhaps I’ll find something worthwhile to do.

Anyway, thanks go to Metallica for detonating my unifying theory on the quality of music and also for making Tohcoth seem much better.