Album Review: Lulu – Lou Reed and Metallica
So chances are by now you’ve seen the fallout from this, the provocative collaboration between Lou Reed and Metallica. The hammering this project has got since it’s release seems relentless and although it dosent really tie into my opinions, it’s definetly something that needs addressed. Firstly, yes the partnering between Lou Reed and Metallica is unorthodox to say the least. Musically it’s akin to trying to force a square peg into a round hole, if this wasn’t abundantly obvious before it certainly is now. But tonally there are certain parallels to be drawn between the two. Both acts have dabbled in darkness, both acts have faced personal trials and tribulations and perhaps most importantly both acts have reached the point, nay…earned the right to no longer give a shit. Although it’s clearly pissed off a lot of people, especially the “precious” metal community this frayed, crazy idea shows that both acts still have the balls and the fiery passion to attempt something else, something different. The album is unquestionably rough, but the sheer fact it even exists shows that both Metallica and Lou Reed are willing to take risks other people in their position wouldn’t even contemplate. And if that dosent generate some form of excitement, I dont know what does? The infantile, instant discrediting of this project by certain people says so much more about them than it does the subject of their frustration. Those wishing that this record would simply disappear are going to be bitterly dissapointed, because whether it’s for the right reasons or not I bet ten years down the line, people will still be talking about that bat shit crazy record Lou Reed made with Metallica!
And with that out of the way I can finally delve into my take on the album. The biggest flaw with Lulu is that the whole thing is actually a great idea, a great idea that is poorly executed. Based on German playwright Frank Wedekind’s stage production of the same name, Lulu takes themes from its namesake and applies them to music. Commenting on social status, relationships and the spiralling concepts within the world of prostitution. Lyrically Lulu is harsh, vulgar yet very human in the pain expressed through its songwriting. Lou Reeds vocal delivery (through the medium of spoken word) is equally as harsh and vulgar as said content. This more often than not dosent make for pleasant listening, Reed’s voice cracks and scrapes through the albums near ninety minute run time like a sandpaper Q tip massaging your ears. But this fits the tone of what he’s saying, the style definetly connects with the substance. Whats more, Reed’s delivery on occasion actually sends emotional shockwaves through your system. The way he changes the inflection of his voice during the quieter parts of “Frustration” and “Junior Dad” really evoke strong feelings of fear and brutal sadness. But these moments are ultimately too few and far apart, a lot of Reed’s contributions dont fit in with the instrumentation provided by Metallica. When the record reaches its more sombre and tender moments is where the partnership works effectively. But hearing Lou stumble over heavy, dense riffs dosent really work all that well in my opinion.
Metallica’s contribution to the project is pretty interesting, there is a very raw and improvised quality to the instrumentation of Lulu. Again this shows the bands reignited hunger and to a certain degree adds a hefty dose of passion to record. When the band are amping things up such as the intro to “Mistress Dread”, there is a certain aspect of concentrated fury added to the proceedings. It’s also interesting to hear a slight throwback to their 90’s sound in certain songs. Some of the guitar tones used are somewhat reminiscent to that of the Black Album in places. But where there is good, there is also bad and the major flaw on Metallica’s behalf is how rough they sound. A good deal of their input feels rushed and recorded poorly, a lot of songs dont feel or sound like the finished versions. You could be forgiven for thinking that you were listening to a series of demo sessions than the actual finished product here. Had both parties involved given more time to going over this album multiple times, they may have been able to polish and tighten things up a lot more. But having said that, would that have detracted from the records concept and its inspirations?
There is plenty to pick at with Lulu, there are a lot of things which just simply dont work. But contrary to popular belief there is also a fair amount of good things to be found in the album. Worst album ever recorded? No way! In my eyes it’s not even the worst album of 2011. But naysayers and poo pooers will always be inclined to disagree no matter what I think. As is their right, at the end of the day like everything else Lulu is ultimately whatever you make of it.