Tony Harrison: When are you gonna start thinking outside the box?
Saboo: The box is there for a reason; to keep ball-men like you inside it.
As a rule, we’re always supposed to applaud the collapse of the record industry. We are supposed to feel good about the democratization of music and the limitless palette upon which artists can now operate. But that collapse is why Lulu exists. If we still lived in the radio prison of 1992, do you think Metallica would purposefully release an album that no one wants? No way. Cliff Burnstein from Q Prime Management would listen to their various ideas, stroke his white beard, and deliver the following 45-second pep talk: “OK, great. Love these concepts. Your allusion to Basquiat’s middle period was very apt, Lars. Incisive! But here’s our situation. If you guys spend two months writing superfast Diamond Head songs about nuclear winter and shape-shifting, we can earn $752 million in 18 months, plus merchandizing. That’s option A. The alternative is that you can make a ponderous, quasi-ironic art record about ‘the lexicon of hate’ that will outrage the Village Voice and mildly impress Laurie Anderson. Your call.”
…For much of my life, I lived under the myth that record labels were inherently evil. I was ceaselessly reminded that corporate forces stopped artists from doing what they truly desired; they pushed musicians toward predictable four-minute radio singles and frowned upon innovation, and they avariciously tried to turn art into a soulless commodity that MTV could sell to the lowest common denominator. And that did happen, sometimes. But some artists need that, or they end up making albums like this.
Ahhahaha. I haven’t paid attention to Metallica for fifteen years, so I don’t really care what they’ve done this time in their quest for utter shamelessness. But as far as the general principle goes, I blame the Romantics. I blame them for this incoherent muddling of creativity with chaos, the belief that uninhibited expression is a close relative or necessary precondition of genius, all of which manifests itself in everything from insufferably pretentious portrait-of-the-artist tossers to the knee-jerk opposition to ADHD drugs for children. Sometimes the tension between the untrammeled vision of the artist and the crass demands of the public or the market is what combusts into greatness.