Sunday, 11 March 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #99 - Lou Reed & Metallica, "Lulu"

"I would cut my legs and tits off when I think of Boris Karloff" starts Lou while James growls "small town girl" in the background. They really have mellowed, haven't they?

This is the story of Lulu, a German dancer who climbs up German society, met Jack the Ripper and ended up a prostitute, and a rather deviant prostitute at that by the sounds of it. It was a German play, later adapted for Hollywood into Louise Brook's iconic silent movie. It is heavy with blood and sperm and violence and masochism: all fin-de-siecle stuff. (Our sexual violence is on a more industrial scale now, I suppose. Not quite so manual, not so artisan.) And most of those tracks are long - heading close to twenty minutes by the last one.

"The View" is less of a tribute to the scruffy Dundee indie rockers than I might have hoped; but I've missed that big, pulverising sound. Boulders and giant fir trees tossed about by a rowdy Norse deity: you get the picture. "Pumping Blood" has the narrator screaming out to Jack to perform a "supreme violation", imagining swallowing "your cutter like a coloured man's dick" with "blood spurting from me". It's the track that stands out the furthest in the masochist direction - a "leather box with azaleas" and worship of trickling blood. "Mistress Dread" sounds like thrashy old Eighties Metallica, grinding away in the back of their tour van, with an elderly-sounding Lou warbling over the top about Goliaths and kissing away "a scrap of blood".

"Iced Honey" has more of a Lou Reed feel, structurally - with the Metallica lads as more of a backing band. Hetfield's backing vocals sound a bit yokel karaoke. "Cheat on Me" works it way up from some mournful, looping strings to a rumbling, bassy background while Lou asks "why do I cheat on me?"and guitars gradually boil up around them.

"But all I do is fall over/I don't have the strength I once had." Panicking about being "dry and spermless like a girl", "Frustration" is properly creepy, whispering over nerve-plucking strings, before it goes all Nordic again. It's tempting to weld this together with Lou's tired, papery voice and plant him in amongst the words. "Little Dog" also starts with the same worn-out, drone feel, with the scent of shit in the air.

"Dragon" takes the division of the divine and the "fucked with" directly into the lyrics. "You think we're some kind of table you can rest your feet on when you're able?" There's a sense of Mark E Smith flailing about standing in front of his modern-day version of The Fall. Ozymandian in his contempt for restriction or advice. I hear see this working on the soundtrack to the most Blakean bits of "Red Dragon".

Thence to "Junior Dad", the most highly-regarded track according to the largely-unimpressed reviews I've seen. Largely well-regarded because it doesn't sound like a knackered old Lou Reed struggling against an inappropriate metal backing band. It sounds like something more post-rock than that. Though I suppose Lou was post-rock a long time ago, wasn't he? It's very long, it's very OK: I'm not very caught up in it, and I'm an all-out sucker for songs about Dads. Just strings phasing in and out of one another. Baaahhhh.


Rating: Warbling out of Masochism

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