Lou Reed & Metallica — “Lulu”

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.