Why Do People Hate Metallica’s ’Lulu’ Album? Lars Ulrich Blames ’Ignorance’

A new Lou Reed’s posthumous book, titled “The Art of the Straight Line: My Tai Chi,” featured a number of interviews of people who were, in one way or another, close to the Velvet Underground frontman. Among those people interviewed was Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich who reflected on his band’s collaboration with Reed on the 2011 album “Lulu.”

In an excerpt shared by Loudwire, we can read Lars Ulrich’s take on how “Lulu” was perceived by rock and metal fans. As you may remember, the album got mixed to negative reactions from both music fans and music critics. Pitchfork, for example, gave it a score of exactly 1.0, which is the absolute minimum. But as Lars explained in the interview for this book, he still doesn’t get why people were so negative about it. He said:

“What the fuck is it about ‘Lulu’ that it got that kind of reaction? I can’t quite figure it out, but years later, it’s aged extremely well. It sounds like a motherfucker still. So I can only put the reaction down to ignorance…”

Lars also added:

“It took our fans to a place I wish they would go more often. Maybe it would be a better time to release it now with what’s going on outside in the world, the chaos. I don’t know, but I am very proud of this record…”

“James [Hetfield] and I would be figuring out ways through a piece of music and then Lou would look over and go, ‘That’s it. I’m not doing another fucking take of that.’ That’s not the way we usually worked, but it was so beautiful and great, the whole thing.”

It’s been well over a decade since Metallica and Lou Reed released “Lulu.” But at the same time, as far as negative reactions go, it seems like the dust still hasn’t settled. On the other hand, David Bowie, out of all people, defended the record, even calling it a “masterpiece.”

In a last year’s interview, Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett reflected on Reed and Metallica getting compliments from Bowie, explaining that even he liked the record. Kirk said:

“That was one of the highest compliments I ever got as a musician and artist, and it was an incredible honor working with Lou Reed and I loved the ‘Lulu’ album. I remember Lou sharing with me that letter David Bowie sent to him: it was written on paper and it was such a glowing, grueling appraisal of the ‘Lulu’ album.”

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“When Lou showed it to me, it brought me to tears bro! ‘Cause I might be some heavy metal guy but Lou Reed and David Bowie made tons of great music that has been a huge inspiration to me over the course of my life.”

Nonetheless, Kirk admitted that it was, at that point, still pretty difficult for him to listen to the album. But it’s not due to negative reactions that it received. He offered:

“It’s hard for me to listen back to ‘Lulu’ because it brings me back to that time – thinking about working with Lou and soaking up his vibe. It became a very emotional album for me, and I’m afraid to listen to it!”

Lou Reed & Metallica - Junior Dad Live 2011

Some musicians even resorted to calling it the best thing that Metallica has ever done, as was the case with the Melvins’ frontman Buzz Osborne. Discussing how rock fans are too “conservative” to accept new things, he looked back on “Lulu” and said:

“For example, Metallica did that record with Lou Reed [2011’s ‘Lulu’], and they were eviscerated for this. When I finally heard the record, I thought it was the best record these guys have ever done.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t know what these people are talking about, this is way better than anything. To me, it was the coolest thing they have ever done, and that was a really good thing to do with Lou Reed.”

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“And people just stomp them to the ground for it. I don’t understand it. This is a really creative and cool thing. You guys don’t appreciate this? Hundreds of millions of people who like this band can’t handle this?”

“If I was Metallica, I would just keep moving in that direction. What’s the problem? They still make money doing it, and it’s much more interesting than what they ended up doing. ‘Well, let’s just do what people can handle.’ I don’t know what people can handle, I have no idea.”

Back in 2013, Kirk Hammett referred to it as the “best stuff we’ve done.” The statement that weirded out so many metal fans read:

“We’re doing it for ourselves, man. ‘Lulu’ is a really good example. I think that ‘Lulu’ is some of the best stuff we’ve done. I mean the song ‘Junior Dad’ moves me to tears, and working with Lou Reed was such a cool, unique, and special thing for us.”

Lou Reed & Metallica: Dragon (Cologne, Germany - November 11, 2011)

He also added:

“Maybe it’s not for everyone. Maybe it’s a challenge for our fans, but for us – Lars, James, Rob, and myself – we loved doing it and it was such a great experience. We look back at it very positively.”

Released back in 2011, the collaborative album “Lulu” featured a total of ten songs, for some reason divided into two CDs. In the first week of its release, the record sold about 13,000 units and landed on the 36th spot on the Billboard 200 chart. But the sales diminished drastically. And, over the three years after its release, it only sold about 33,000 units.

According to a recent report by Metal Hammer, “Lulu” currently holds about 280,000 units sold worldwide.

Photos: Dariusz Lachowicz (Lars Ulrich), Man Alive! (Lou Reed at the Hop Farm Music Festival)

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.