Lou Reed & Metallica
Before I start, it should be noted that ‘Lulu‘, the much discussed Lou Reed and Metallica collaboration, is that its not a Lou Reed record, or a Metallica record – its a collaboration. A team effort. Expect it to be different. A lot of people can’t get their head round that little fact, spouting outrage on par with the daily affront from the Daily Mail. With that in mind, I made sure I went into this with a blank slate. Yes, I’m a Metallica fan. No, I’m not a massive Lou Reed fan. But I’m open to change and I really wanted to give this record a chance to see if ‘Lulu‘ was the furore. If you’re genuinely interested, then give it a spin and see if it floats your boat. Just don’t expect ‘Ride The Lightning‘.
Despite my enthusiasm in approaching it in this light, post listen, that enthusiasm no longer remains. For though I can applaud particularly Metallica’s endeavour in creating a record vastly different in scope and approach to all previous efforts, it was doomed to fail and that sadly is reflected in a large proportion of the end product.
Ironically, the first thing I noticed was despite this being a collaboration, Metallica really don’t stand out often enough.Yes, musically they contribute the majority, but Reed gets the lion’s share of vocals above James Hetfield. Largely, this entails in Reed taking either a spoken word approach, or singing in a low croon. The problem here is that most of the time, the two don’t go together, an imbalance skewed in favour of the vocals that serves only to emphasise, rather than compliment, the differences in each artist’s styles.
The real fatal flaw of ‘Lulu‘, however, is its meandering nature. The lengthier songs in particular fall prey to repetition, whether through the riffs or Reed’s lyrics, which he sometimes rambles through again and again and again. This becomes woefully apparent on the largely forgettable second CD, which essentially becomes the Lou Reed show completely, bar one or two decent riffs. ‘Junior Dad’, the closing track, is particularly culpable, the longest track by some stretch due to an unnecessarily long outro which follows an equally uninteresting song overall. And yes, the lyrics are somewhat perplexing as well, although personally there’s more to be concerned about than Hetfield’s soon-to-be-infamous ‘I am the table!’ moment during ‘The View’. I understand this is an art concept – based on two plays by German playwright Frank Wedekind – but it just strikes me as bizarre and nothing you can really get your head into without really wondering what’s going through Lou’s head?
Occasionally though, there are some cracking moments to be had. These don’t often translate into full songs, but it’s not the disasterfest everyone would have you believe. Often its down to Metallica to provide this initiative, and while they aren’t the greatest things they’ve come up with, they do turn up some mighty riffs (‘Brandenburg Gate’, ‘The View’ and ‘Dragon’ to name a few instances). In fact, I’d go as far to say now the former two, now they’ve had time to bed in, aren’t half bad – although it helps that Hetfield gets a look in and that Reed’s diatribe is a little more shackled within the time limit of each song. There’s even a sense that the melodies between Reed and Metallica can work, judging from ‘Iced Honey’, which is as straightforward as the album gets, although too a little repetitive.
The bottom line though, is that there’s far too much in the way of glaring misjudgements to save it from its eventual fate. I can happily say I gave ‘Lulu‘ a fair crack, but it’s not an album I’m willing to ever go back to. If its pretentiousness doesn’t get you, the repetitiveness and sheer length of the album will. It could have been confined to one CD, particularly considering how long they stretch out some of the songs. The lengthier ones in particular take far too long to get going and even then, it’s more of a threat than something they actually deliver on. And of course, it’s a combination that works as well as a chocolate teapot.
Lou Reed and Metallica really won’t care what you or I think in that regard, and at the end of the day, they’ll still go back to their day jobs with those solo reputations intact. Some avenues are worth exploring. This one wasn’t.