Lou Reed & Metallica, ‘Lulu’ – Album Review
However, even though the record works, as a whole, better than the first single ‘The View‘ or the sample clips from earlier in this week may have led us to believe, it’s still quite an odd and frequently ill-fitting pairing.
If Metallica was looking to fill what we’re assuming is the only empty space on their award shelf, for “weirdest album of the year,” well then, mission accomplished. As on ‘The View,’ much of the record features Metallica riffing away on rough-edged, less complicated variations of their thrash-rock while Reed talks/sings/warbles in an odd and frequently unpleasing manner.
However, there are several songs where the team-up clicks; the brooding, atmospheric acoustic guitars of ‘Little Dog,’ for instance, serve as a perfect accompaniment for Reed’s dramatic poetic style.
There’s a nice moment like that in the middle of ‘Pumping Blood,’ too, but it’s hard not to wonder why Metallica singer James Hetfield wasn’t allowed to take over the vocals on much of the rest of the barreling song.
‘Cheat On Me’ finds Metallica using spooky keyboards, strings and dramatically restrained performances to nice effect. The song builds for nearly four minutes before any words are spoken, and when the metal fury does come in for the final third of this ten-minute epic, it seems entirely natural, even with Reed’s grating vocals.
Personally, we would have chosen ‘Iced Honey’ as the first single. The song, highly reminiscent of ‘Sweet Jane’ from Lou’s Velvet Underground days, serves as the most easily accessible entry point for the typical listener, with the band slowing down to rock speed, Reed turning in his most traditional vocal performance, and Hetfield getting quite a bit of mic time as well. (Granted, creative safety doesn’t seem to be what they’re going for here.)
As a whole, this album is long-winded and very pretentious stuff. Obviously it’s not intended as a party or driving record, but it’s hard to picture anybody that doesn’t have an extremely unique combination of literary and metal music tastes putting ‘Lulu’ in heavy rotation for very long.
Too often, the strengths of each side of this partnership deduct from the other party instead of complimenting them. It’s best to think of this as Metallica’s version of ‘Passengers,’ U2‘s experimental 1995 collaboration with Brian Eno — an interesting but not ultimately successful side trip. However, we are highly curious to see what positive affects working together has on the next projects from both Reed and Metallica.