I just listened to the full-album stream of Lulu.
Lou Reed + Metallica = Loutallica. But, thankfully, this sounds more like a Lou Reed album than a Metallica album. The first song I heard – The View – really didn't bode well: Its furious riffs don't gel with Lou's laid-back drawl, and it ends with James Hetfield screaming that he's a table.
But The View is by no means representative of the rest. The rest is very, very good – thematically similar to Berlin but with a sound more reminiscent of The Blue Mask, Ecstasy and the heavier bits of The Raven.
And ho yes, this is heavy – very heavy – in every sense of the word. Lou's lyrics are brutal like his Rock Minuet – but for perhaps the first time since Sister Ray, the intensity of the music matches that of the libretto.
Can I call the words a libretto? It was, after all, written for the stage.
Ultimately – and I never thought I'd say this, right – it seems that Lou Reed and Metallica were made for each other. Lulu is far better than I ever could have imagined.
But I got to thinking (Carrie Bradshaw I am) – here we have an album of dark intonations backed by the heaviest of heavy metal. Yes, I got to thinking. Specifically, I got to thinking about another band. A band who went their separate ways many years ago; whose sheer creative force set fire to the sky itself and burned a deep trench somewhere near Southport which hasn't stopped burning for almost six years.
Yes: I speak of a little band called The Unconsoled.
The Unconsoled were like a mistake made by God himself. Their time on this planet wasn't very long, but for the duration of their brief and brutal existence, all who looked on sort of winced and said “what the hell is that?”
There were five people in The Unconsoled. Alex “The Doctor” played the drums. Together with Jake's stilt-walking bass, they formed a formidable rhythm section often affectionately referred to as “The Cushions From Kent”.
Two-pronged guitar assault came from “The Bastards of War” - James and Eddie, who perfected a style of playing which owed more to troop movements than it did conventional guitar technique.
It's worth noting that there were originally three layers of distorted mettle. There was once a demigod called David who was so proud of his white Stratocaster that no-one else was ever allowed to even spend time in the same room as it – lest their moisture attack its beautiful sheen. This made rehearsals very difficult, so he later parted from the benevolent fold of The Unconsoled muttering that it was a “stupid name anyway.” He wanted for the band to be called The Edelweiss Pirates.
There was a singer, too – but he couldn't sing. Instead he intoned rhythmically.
The Unconsoled rehearsed in an attic lit by a red-lightbulb in Jake's house on Friday nights. The walls were adorned with pictures of Pete Doherty and Carl Barat. They couldn't afford much in the way of a PA system, and the singer didn't exactly boast a powerhouse voice. The music therefore had to cease completely every time the vocals came in. This led to a unique style which relied upon staccato stabs of metal brutality punctuated by fey sixth-form attempts at hip beat poetry.
Also, nobody in The Unconsoled quite understood music. This led to a style which would later affectionately be described as “flexi-rock”. Flexi-rock allows for the songs to last for as long – or as short -as The Unconsoled desired. Nowhere was this technique better realised than in their magnum opus – the almighty War Bastards – named, of course, after the unholy duo that was the dual-shock guitar line-up – James and Edward.
War Bastards only had two chords, but that's not to say that it had a chord structure. The Bastards of War would furiously thrum a single power-chord whilst the Cushions From Kent chewed over whichever rhythmical improvisations occurred to them. On an occasional signal from The Doctor – a cymbal roll and four strikes of the kick-drum – the music would suddenly halt for a primal scream of “War Bastards!” from all five of The Unconsoled.
Beyond this they had a cover of Napoleon XIV's They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha Haa – a song chosen because it features nothing at all in the way of music or singing. The drumbeat was easy-enough for them to replicate; and being spoken rather than sung, the vocals were ideal for The Unconsoled. The real challenge was in finding enough for five musicians to do in a cover of a song which features nothing in the way of an arrangement.
So their repertoire never really stretched beyond two songs. But given that one of these songs could, if The Unconsoled so desired, be played for three hours or more, this was never seen as much of a problem. Besides, The Unconsoled never got around to playing a gig anyway. Nor did they ever make any recordings. In fact, the only physical contribution they ever made to anything was in signing a birthday card as “The Unconsoled”. It was cheaper than buying five different cards.
No, for the duration of their short existence, The Unconsoled were defined less by their revolutionary contribution to music and more by their bitter rivalry with ex-guitarist Demigod David. Mistakes were made and harsh-words were exchanged – the rivalry culminating in the penning of a vicious diatribe entitled Vote Unconsoled! It consisted of a litany of slanderous accusations designed to demonise and defame the Demigod. It boasted such marvellous vignettes as “The Demigod quite enjoys setting his hands on fire. Are these the hands you want feeding your children?” It ended with a terrifying screech of “vote Unconsoled!”
It would have made for a malevolent musical maelstrom to match even the merciless tempestuous fury of War Bastards. But sadly, The Unconsoled would never get round to creating an arrangement worthy of the fiery libel they had penned. They were doomed from the start.
Most bands, upon splitting, cite such reasons as “creative differences” for their schism. The Unconsoled, though, must be the only band to have ever existed who could lay claim to being torn apart by shit. Almost literally: The Unconsoled were torn apart by shit.
One night, The Doctor delivered an almighty floater in Jake's toilet – the kind which just wouldn't flush-away. You know the kind. It was, regrettably, discovered by Jake's mum. It being her night-off, she didn't exactly relish the idea of having to bleach the toilet. Especially when she'd already got all-dressed up. She was furious to the extent that she banned The Unconsoled from ever practising in her attic ever again. And, having lost their rehearsal space, The Unconsoled simply couldn't continue. Their exiled walk on the mean jaundiced streets of Hillside was a dark moment for all. The Demigod had won.
Nobody but The Unconsoled ever heard The Unconsoled play – and they didn't so much “play” as “interrogate”. This is a sad tale of what could have been. They sowed the seeds of metal poetry six years or so before Loutallica. Perhaps when Lou Reed, in 1972, promised to “reap just what you sow”, he was referring to the dark chaos of The Unconsoled.
I'm not accusing him of plagiarism. I'm just saying that when I heard Lulu, I heard The Unconsoled. Specifically, what is Pumping Blood if not a more disciplined version of War Bastards?
The Unconsoled live on in the cold, dead, unfeeling eyes of that dismembered abused mannequin torso which adorns the front of Lulu.
And the dark, clever twist in this tale?
That pretentious and inept vocalist? It was I all along! Aha!
The Unconsoled are dead. Long live The Unconsoled.
If I'm found slumped over my laptop – a trickle of blood oozing from the corner of my mouth – you know to blame The Demigod.