Lou Reed & Metallica Stream New Album ‘Lulu’ [REVIEW]
Lou Reed & Metallica have finally unleashed their bastard love-child, as 'Lulu' can now be streamed in full at their website. It's gonna get weird as we take you inside the album with our pull-no-punches review.
"I would cut my leg and t--s off when I think of Boris Karloff and Kinski in the dark of the moon," is how Lou Reed opens the album's lead-off track 'Brandenburg Gates' -- things only get weirder from there on.
As is the case is with almost the entire album, the music underneath Reed's warbly vocals is actually quite good. The thing that is very off-putting is Reed singing from the viewpoint of a woman, which reaches full creepiness in the second track 'Pumping Blood'. Metallica's brute guitar mastery holds hands with Reed's awkward vocal attack from the other side of an electric fence while he delivers even more awkward lyrics like:
"Waggle my ass like a dark prostitute, coagulating heart."
"I swallowed your sharpest cutter like a colored man's d---."
He also yells "Jack" a bunch of times, we're guessing this whole album makes more sense when you've seen the work that it is based on. Metallica on the other hand delivers furious guitar licks on 'Pumping Blood', a grinding death march on 'Mistress Dread', and brings an arrangement too good to be wasted on Reed in 'Iced Honey'. Had these songs been performed solely by Metallica, it may have been one of their best records to date.
There are some tracks where Reed finds the common ground between his abilities and the music provided by the thrash metal pioneers, like the incredibly well arranged 11-minute epic -- 'Cheat On Me'. Starting from the intro's slow orchestral swell the track draws you in immediately. Reeds sullen, yet repetitive, spoken verse matches well with carefully placed bursts of distorted lead guitar.
Even in 'Cheat on Me', Reed's underwhelming performance and tendency of rapidly repeating words eventually grows tiresome and a bit annoying. More often than not I found myself tuning him out to enjoy the subtle brilliance of Metallica throughout 'Lulu'.
'Lulu' is an incredibly long listen (hence the long review) -- by the time you reach 'Cheat on Me', the album's sixth track, you still have roughly an hour of album to go. 'Frustration' is next and while it is quite good musically, it derails at some point a few minutes as Lou sings about being 'sperm-less like a girl' over Lars' counterattack on the drums. After a few minutes straight of laughing out loud (yes, I lol'd) at the utterly ridiculous nature of Lou Reed's singing, the action kicks into high-gear at around 6 and a half minutes and finishes strong (musically).
'Little Dog' starts with slow acoustics and guitar swells, and despite some of the lyrics -- this is wear Lou Reed is at his best. His slow, broken, and solemn tone convey the appropriate emotion for the song. Perhaps the fact that he doesn't try "singing" was his saving grace here.
On 'Dragon' Reed replaces singing with loud-talking as he repeats "Hallucin-aaa-aaa-tion", until Metallica picks up the pace and drowns the sound of his failure near the 3-minute mark. Kirk Hammett comes in with a Tom Morello-esque scratching solo about halfway through the 11-minute song, that much like this review, goes on for far too long.
Finally we land on 'Junior Dad', the 20-minute closer which brought both Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield to tears in the studio. While I didn't cry upon listening, I did enjoy the first 10-minutes of the 19 and a half minute affair.
Whether I liked it or not, 'Lulu' is an experience. You'll laugh (even when you're not supposed to), you'll rock out, you'll get depressed and confused-- it definitely runs the full gamut of emotion. I suggest listening in small spurts though, I was pretty weirded out at the office after listening to 'Lulu' twice through headphones. There were also times I thought my ears were going to puke.
Final Verdict: Metallica provides some of their best and most beautifully understated music, while Lou Reed sounds like a lost old man making up his own lyrics at metal karaoke night.