The curiosity of 'Lulu'
By NICK TAVARES
STATIC and FEEDBACK Editor
Here we have Lulu, an album where Lou Reed clearly had a lot to say and wanted a loud, tight, edgy backing to deliver two discs worth of songs and statements. The band he found to back him? Metallica.
The internet was abuzz at the news of the pairing. But, predictably, the results are not good. What Reed and Metallica have created is not engaging or even that interesting. Lulu is about 90 minutes of drudge, music that plods on without rhythm or hop, an album that doesn’t really do either artist any favors.
The opening “Brandenburg Gate” starts out interestingly enough, with Reed reciting “I would cut my legs and tits off/When I think of Boris Karloff/In the dark of the moon,” but it’s not long before the weirdness kicks in, Metallica’s full-scale riffing and James Hetfield’s repeated “Small town girl!” punctuating the rest of Reed’s pseudo-ranting.
And that’s what makes this record. It’s two discs of Reed sing-speaking things like “If I waggle my ass like a dark prostitute/Would you think less of me” while Metallica thrashes away. For what it’s worth, Metallica actually has moments where they sound like a good band again, but they usually come when Reed is silent. But these moments are totally without context, and are forgotten as soon as the musicians get back to what they came to do.
There have been more than a few comparisons to Metal Machine Music, Reed’s 1975 double-LP collection of creatively arranged feedback. The comparisons have come not for any musical similarities, or shared outlook, but because both of these records are absolutely unlistenable.
Metal Machine Music has maintained a cult following in the 35 years since its release, however, with some fans swearing by the record, some insisting they actually listen to it. And they're probably sincere. But Metal Machine Music was, if nothing else, bold. While this record might be brash and aims for intensity, Lulu certainly isn’t worthy of Metal Machine Music’s reputation. It breaks no new ground, and it’s not different enough from what came before it. It sounds like Reed replaced Hetfield on St. Anger, another terrible record. Even the album closer, “Junior Dad,” which trades in the sludge for acoustics and texture, isn’t good enough to be considered classic or even solid. It’s just different enough to sound almost refreshing. Almost.
Lulu never stood a chance in the short term. It’s too strange and too off-putting on initial listens. Even for Reed, an eclectic and unpredictable artist, this came out of left field. It’s hard to imagine Metallica fans rallying behind this, either. Really, this was an album designed to be rediscovered years later, the cult of fans who swear by this record slowly building.
That could still happen, but it shouldn’t. It’s not good enough to pay back whatever effort the listener gives.
E-mail Nick Tavares at firstname.lastname@example.org