Is there any point in purely negative music criticism? How interesting can it be that someone, no matter who they are, simply does not like a particular piece of music?
I pose the question while mulling over the a blog post on The Wire magazine’s The Mire, “Lou Reed & Metallica: Why all the #WTF?”, and the responses to it.
Some people, it seems, just don’t like Lou Reed & Metallica’s recent collaborative album, Lulu.
At first, I thought that The Wire’s readers might find the discovery of Lulu in the magazine’s 2011 top 10 upsetting because its inclusion breaks the magazine’s own implicit embargo on “mainstream” music. Objections of this type flooded into the magazine’s letters pages in July 2001, after Radiohead appeared on the cover.
But it seems that’s not it. As The Wire’s Jennifer Allan explains: “Interestingly, people seem to think the Loutallica album is objectively bad music; not just something that few people like, but something it is impossible for anyone to like, at all.”
Clearly some Wire readers do like the album. A subscriber’s chart in the current issue places the album at number 18, a lower yet still respectable placing. I can see why others might not, but Lulu is the sound of two mainstream acts stepping outside their respective comfort zones to try something new to either, and that alone makes it worthwhile.
In any case, consider Reed’s and Metallica’s respective back catalogs. On this evidence, what were the chances of either artist turning out a certified crowd-pleaser last year, had they not crossed paths at that 2009 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame shindig?
Lou Reed is notoriously inconsistent. Metallica are, at best, routinely self-sabotaging. They are, after all, the band who recorded, in the sessions for …And Justice for All, what could have been one of the best Metal albums of all time. And then they fucked it up, deleting the work of their bassist from the mix, and creating instead a sprawling, ambitious, flawed and confounding album. If only Lou had been in the producer’s chair: it could’ve been even better than Lulu.