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!
What makes this album even more fun, though, is the backstory. Originally, Warner label Reprise records was supposed to release the album, but they passed on it claiming it was crap. Without a label, the band released the album on the Internet.
Combining rock with hip hop, country, blues, jazz and any other music style he could think of, he released Odelay in 1996. The first single, “Where It’s At,” showed us that not only wasn’t Beck a one-hit wonder with “Loser,” but that he understood what creates a truly musical experience. Mashing up funk, rap, soul and jazz within that one song, he set the tone for everything else we would hear (but not necessarily expect) from him. Listening to the album, we get seemingly simple songs (“Devil’s Haircut,” “Jack-Ass,” “New Pollution”) that suddenly twist and turn when you’d least expect, but still remain catchy enough to sing-a-along. Rock and roll was originally the combination of the different popular styles of music back in the fifties (bee-bop, rhythm and blues, jazz, soul, etc), and what Beck is doing here is just progressing that style further with the genres that have developed since them, perhaps creating the next step in rock music, paving the way for groups like Outkast and the Black Eyed Peas.
Lightning was bound to strike. Surrounded as they are by the grinding mediocrity of the power ballad “Bleeding Me” and the go nowhere “Until It Sleeps” are the glaring flashes of tunes like “Cure” and “The House Jack Built” that succeed in finding a comfortable place for the band within the paradigm shift of grunge while also leaving space for nuance and small bits of softness amid the flint-edged riffs and Hetfield’s thickening growl. Metallica have wound their way out of the underground metal scene in the early ‘80s, earning the respect and admiration from their peers and fans for their awe-inspiring talent and hard-nosed view of the traditional paths of music promotion.
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.
Their first live success came early; they were chosen to open for British heavy metal band Saxon at one gig of their 1982 US tour. This was Metallica’s second gig. Metallica recorded its first demo, Power Metal, whose name was inspired by Quintana’s early business cards in early 1982. The group’s fast tempos, instrumentals and aggressive musicianship made them one of the founding “big four” bands of thrash metal, alongside Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer. Metallica’s current lineup comprises founding members and primary songwriters Hetfield and Ulrich, longtime lead guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Robert Trujillo.
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.
Two trailer-trash types who wear face paint, pretend to be a street gang and drench cult devotees in cheap soda called Faygo, Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope are more notorious for their beef with Eminem (who pistol-whipped an ICP homey in 2001) than their ham-fisted rap-rock music. They claim that a “dark carnival” visited them one night, prophesied impending apocalypse and made them its messengers.
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.
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.
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 . 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.