Lulu vs lucre


When you live through something it’s not always apparent how revolutionary it is: you get caught up in the excitement.

i grew up listening to Thrash Metal and had some fine times in clubs, stadiums and fields but never thought of it as anything other than rock’n’roll, a great time. In retrospect I can see a band like Metallica developing from being a cult act into a rock phenomenon. There was a point in the ’90s when they were part of an indisputable holy trinity – along with REM and U2 – of stadium rock acts. The ‘Black Album’ was a massive breakthrough in rock as important in its own way as ‘Automatic For The People’ and ‘Achtung Baby’. Three bands harnessed their potential and balanced the demands of art and commerce with hereforeto unrivalled finesse. It was a fine time to be a rock fan. All three have seen checkered times since then, with Metallica having perhaps suffered the most; in part due tothe Napster business. They came across as self-important, as sincere as their motives may have been. Load/Reload should have been one streamlined record, not two patchy ones: metal fans can’t abide indulgence.

They take their music seriously in large part because it’s often been marginalised. They enjoy their bands’ success but are touchy about any whiff of ‘selling out’. Being on the edge of the pop world is a point of pride.

We’ve grown up since then. Looking back I can appreciate how these and other bands try to be creative and saleable at the same time. To quote ex-Yes drummer, Bill Bruford

‘To be too far ahead, to offer a music that is incomparable to another would be unwise. In practice we settle for a rearrangement of ideas that previously have been accepted… new music would be meaningless, in that society would have no time to form the taste groups… that would attatch meaning to it.’

It’s good to see metal getting some mainstream recognition again. Mastodon make music that is ball-bustingly-heavy, complex and ferociously catchy:

Metallica pioneered this (for my generation at least) so it’s gratifying to see them returning to confront fans’ expectations and ignoring the critics. That’s – ironically – what broke them in the first place. ‘Death Magnetic’ garnered the most amount of critical acclaim since ‘Metallica’ but it’ll go down in their history as an attempt to appease fans pissed off by ‘Load/Reload’ and ‘St. Anger’, just like U2 with ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’.


Is back to the ‘couldn’t-give-a-fuck-gonna-do-our-own-thing’ Metallica of ‘Ride The Lightning’ through to ‘…And Justice For All…’ days. Those albums revolutionised metal.

Maybe they’re doing it again?

2 responses »

  1. I give Metallica mad props for doing what they want to do and standing behind Lulu 100%, and if they think it’s amazing more power to them. I listened to Lulu in it’s entirety and with an open mind, but I just couldn’t enjoy it for many reasons. I enjoy myself some experimental music from time to time, but Lulu came off like a complete clash of ideas gone wrong.
    I really do like your idea of “Maybe they’re doing it again?” and it does make perfect sense when you look back at the beginning of the scenes like you stated, but I don’t think that this collaboration will be the start of anything big or revolutionary.

    • @ atleastimhousebroken
      I was listening to the latest Metal Hammer covermount today and out of 18 tracks, probably 15 sounded like a cross between Between The Buried and Me and Dream Theater: the same collision of clean vs ‘cookiemonster’ vox; the same mad meter shifs, double kick drumming and intricate song structures. MetaI’s as subject to trends as any popular music and it’s good to see Metallica ‘doing a Radiohead’, i.e. using the fact that the rock world is their oyster to try something different rather than following the herd or being predictable. I suspect you’re probably right when you say it won’t be the start of anything revolutionary, at least not directly: maybe it’ll inspire other bands to do the same, though.

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