From the minute Lou Reed and Metallica announced they’d be
collaborating on an album based on plays from a late 19th/early 20th
Century German playwright, fans of both artists had their knives out. I never
quite understood why. Some of Reed’s best music, including his classic live
album Rock and Roll Animal and parts
of his finest solo album, The Blue Mask,
feature tracks that wouldn’t be out of place on a Metallica album.
Unfortunately, Lulu isn’t even in the
same league as either of those albums.
If you care about this collaboration at all, the odds are
you’re already aware that it has become rock and roll’s Ishtar. At this point,
the question people are asking isn’t whether it’s bad, but how bad is it? The
answer: it’s pretty bad, but not the unmitigated disaster it’s being made out
Despite what many believe, I’m not convinced the collaboration
was doomed from the start. Opener “Brandenburg Gate” roars out of the speakers following a short
acoustic interlude, and Metallica’s blaring guitars seem to energize Lou. The
song is a bit underwritten and James Hetfield’s backup vocals are more than a
bit over the top, but as a sign of things to come, it offers some promise.
Unfortunately, it’s mostly downhill from here. It turns out that “Brandenburg
Gate” is one of the only songs with an actual melody. The rest of Lulu is full of recycled, repetitive
riffs; endless drones; more sex and violence than a slasher movie; and meditations
on topics like how it would feel to be “spermless like a girl.” There are times
when it’s interesting (mostly on Disc One), but at more than an hour and a half
long, with so many unlistenable passages, it’s hard to see when anyone would
put it on.
That is until you arrive at the album’s final – and by far
best – track, “Junior Dad” (for now, we’ll forget about the fact that it’s
taken 70 minutes to get here). Metallica actually plays with subtlety instead
of just power, and Reed tells a moving story about cruelties passed down across
generations. Most importantly, they play like one unit, rather than two
different artists who wandered on to each other’s album.
Here’s where you see what could have been. Unfortunately, at
around the 11-minute mark, you stop seeing what this collaboration could have
been and see what it actually is – self-indulgent, not especially well thought
out and often pointless. That’s where the music stops and the song turns into eight
minutes of drone that goes absolutely nowhere and offers nothing to hold your
attention. Metal Machine Music seems
as dynamic as a Beatles album by comparison. If nothing else, these guys can be
proud that they haven’t lost their knack for pissing people off.
Dad” HAL BIENSTOCK
latest issue of BLURT (#11) for our interview with Lou Reed and Lars Ulrich of