Lou Reed & Metallica - Lulu
It was something of a bolt from the blue when it was announced that Lou Reed and Metallica had recorded the album Lulu together during a week in California. Almost immediately, fans of the latter stomped like little brats all over the idea before a note had even been heard. And I am delighted to say that they will indeed hate this minor gem; all those who decried Lulu without thought and just want everything to sound like 'Enter Sandman' can weep all they want, and thankfully for the rest of us, this is a complex, dark, heavy, experimental, difficult ninety minutes that is a perfect meeting of two much-loved institutions.
Lulu is very much divided in two; the first disc is heavier and more thrash-orientated, with Metallica at their proggy best as Reed delivers wonderfully eloquent diatribes over and around the music. Disc two is more bizarre and experimental as Hetfield and Co. play out the Velvet Underground man's vision. The album begins in brash fashion, the giant chords and screams of "I'm just a small town girl" of 'Brandenburg Gate' followed by the doom-laden dirge of lead single ‘The View’ set the heart racing and the head banging. The hum of strings and squeal of feedback merge in glorious disharmony under the thumping rhythms of ‘Pumping Blood’, the first true intersection of these disparate worlds; this is a heavy, odd, disturbing song, the sudden changes in pace excitedly unsettling before rising to a bombastic climax.
The furious ‘Mistress Dread’ emerges as an early zenith, the breathtaking speed riffs recalling Metallica at their prime, the hypnotic crunch of the guitars driving on and on in almost endless delight. Although his vocals never feel out of place, Lou Reed might not be on his finest form as he warbles his way alongside the monster. Upon bringing this half to a close, ‘Cheat On Me’ gives a hint as to what is to follow as it spreads its wings to venture off into sparser and weirder aural adventures; sprawling out over eleven minutes, it pulls off the clever trick that on reflection it seems to go nowhere, yet doesn’t feel overly long.
Although the first disc is the more immediate, the latter part is dismissed foolishly; it is hard work, but a rewarding listen. The stop-start-stop of the seemingly apt-titled 'Frustration' is classic Lou Reed as it dives headlong into a surreal realm where heavy blues grooves meet avant-garde mischief. 'Dragon' is the strangest love letter heard yet, but the melding of Metallica's brilliant soundtracking with Lou Reed's superlative lyrics and faultless delivery means this is the highlight of Lulu. The twenty minute 'Junior Dad' that brings the whole gargantuan beast to an end is a singularly introspective affair: with a minimalist approach that eventually decays into a beautiful ambient drone, it brings a sense of closure and finality to this most splendid of collaborations.
Haters? We give you a middle-digit, proudly raised.