It’s hard to approach the now mythically infamous collaboration between Lou Reed and Metallica without being aware of the furore that Lulu provoked from the moment the project was announced.
All those worst fears seemed to have been realised when the interviews given by the pair that then surfaced caused toes to curl from Berlin to New York. And all the reviews of the album that followed were unanimous. That this was quite possibly the worst album, ever, was epitomised by the boys from Pravda who gave it a derisory 1.0 http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/15996-lou-reed-metallica/.
But. It’s actually, not, that, bad. If anything, it’s hard to imagine what anyone might have hoped for from such a pairing.
The musical realm that Metallica hail from is characterised by two facets; noise, and an endearing contradiction. On the one hand, the worlds of metal engulf you in a maelstrom of thunder that promises impossible, macho violence. But the bands that produce it are peopled by topless boys whose long conditioned, cascading curls mask delicate hands that vigorously caress and finger the necks of guitars grasped at the crotch. It’s like combining chilli with chocolate.
The one thing you must never do is listen to the lyrics. But unfortunately, when a band gets to be as big as Metallica, they insist on being taken seriously. And there’s only a very special, specific type of person that could ever take a band like Metallica seriously; Beavis.
Happily, there’s far more Lou here than there is Metallica. Pointedly, the one track that all of the critics allowed the album was its last, Junior Dad. But that’s because it’s basically a Lou Reed song. You’d be hard pressed to indentify anything here that would have sounded out of place on a solo album of his (though the track’s second 10 minutes(!) would probably have felt more at home on a Brian Eno album than a Lou Reed one.).
Nevertheless, despite what its endless detractors would have you believe, one or two of the more collaborative tracks are actually kind of okay. The sound that Reed and his slightly more grungy than normal house band make is quietly compelling and occasionally hypnotic. At the very worst, all it’ll do is send you back to 1975’s Metal Machine Music and the just as unfairly overlooked Ecstasy from 2000.
And so what if some of the lyrics grate? Wilfully obscure, even apparently risible Lou Reed is still the closest to greatness that Metallica will ever find themselves. No wonder they were grinning so inanely in all of those interviews.