Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Lou Reed and Metallica's "Lulu"- album review

 Lou Reed & Metallica - Lulu
Lou Reed and Metallica
Lulu
Rating: ***

In the world of rock n roll, there are great ideas and terrible ideas for collaborations. Some are met with positive results and some just don’t work at all. With a collaboration like Lou Reed and Metallica, it can go either way: it’s going to be brilliant or it’s going to be the worst thing ever made. The album, Lulu, has been getting panned by both critics and fans. I can see why: it’s very difficult to sit through. For me, I’m in between about Lulu. Parts of it are really good and then there are some parts that terrible. For the eclectic and bizarre factor, I can honestly say that Lulu is a decent album for me. I know a bunch of people are going to think I’m crazy but I’m not crazy about this album. This is going to be a challenging listen for a lot of people.
            The history of this album actually starts in 1895. A man named Frank Wedekind wrote the play Erdgeist, or Earth Spirit. In 1905, he wrote another play called Die Buchse der Pandora, or Pandora’s Box. Wedekind referred to these plays as his “Lulu” plays, as both plays told the story of a tortured and abused ballerina of the same name. The plays would later become an opera and various other things. Robert Wilson, a theatre director, asked singer/songwriter Lou Reed to write a musical adaptation of the two plays. Reed agreed to do it. Around this time, Reed had jammed with Metallica at the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame’s 25th anniversary concerts in 2009. Reed got to talk to the band and everybody got along. Drummer Lars Ulrich remembered Reed calling out “Let’s do a record together!”. Ulrich thought Reed was joking but alas, he was not. Earlier this year in 2011, Lou Reed and the members of Metallica (guitarists James Hetfield and Kirk Hammet, bassist Robert Trujillo, and drummer Lars Ulrich) were in the studio. Reed had written both the lyrics and music. Metallica’s job was to play Reed’s music. The album was completed in four days (though the liner notes say it was recorded from April 2011 to June 2011) and this is the end result.

            If there was an award for most random opening lyric, “Brandenburg Gate” would probably take it: “I would cut my legs and tits off when I think of Boris Karloff and Kinski/In the dark of the moon”. Fair enough, Lou. Once Lou is done singing the first two line, Metallica transitions the song to a heavier sound. Reed sings the lyrics while James Hetfield continuously sings in the background (and it can get annoying) “Small town girl”. In terms of the sound and maybe some of the lyrics, “Brandenburg Gate” opens the album brilliantly. Next up is “The View”, which fortunately has nothing to do with the Barbara Walters-hosted talk-show. The song was picked as the single for the album and when first released, the response wasn’t great. I’ll admit: “The View” is very difficult to listen to. However with music like this, it can get better once you listen to it over and over again. What may bother listeners about this song, as well as the rest of the album, is that Reed is reciting the lyrics rather than singing them. Metallica fans are going to hate this but for me, I’ve gotten use to it even before: Reed is an artist and in some ways, a poet. I will admit lyrics such as “I want you on the floor” sounds funny but Hetfield tops it off when he shouts “I AM THE TABLE!” No offense guys but that is flat-out hilarious! 

Still, “The View” is a decent song. “Pumping Blood” starts off with the beautiful sounds of violins playing until Metallica comes in with one their vamping or crunching sounds. When Reed goes into his “singing”, we got a song that sounds like a cross between something off Master of Puppets and something off Reed’s Berlin or even New York. It does get annoying towards the end but I think “Pumping Blood” is a good song. “Mistress Dread”, despite the heavy riffs, is excruciating to sit through. I dig the out-of-place lyrics Reed wrote, which seem to be about S&M and lesbians. Favorite lyric: “Please spit into my mouth/I’m forever in your swirl.” Still, I get a headache even listening to this song. Luckily, “Iced Honey” cures the headache for a while as it has a great sound and beat. In fact, “Iced Honey” might be my favorite song of the album. Disc one (oh yeah, I forgot: this album is 85 minutes long. Let that sink in…) ends with “Cheat On Me”. This song is more of a poetry track for Reed, which slowly evolves into a Metallica-sounding song. The lyrics are a bit monotonous and the song is eleven minutes long. They could’ve made this song much shorter.

            Disc two opens with “Frustration”, a great song for Metallica to just jam to. The guitar playing on this one is really good but Reed’s lyrics are a little out of place again. Unlike “Mistress Dread”, this one is much easier to listen to. Some of the lyrics are laughable: “To be dead to have no feeling/To be dry and spermless like a girl”. “Little Dog” is a very creepy song. Seriously. It’s just Reed singing to an acoustic guitar playing. This is how Reed describes a dog: “A puny body and a tiny dick/A little dog can make you sick”. Okay, so that wasn’t too bad…but the next verse: “If you got the money you can go to the top/The female dog don’t care what you got/As long as you can raise that little doggie face to a cold hearted pussy/You could have a taste”.  There are plenty of lyrics in this eight minute song but I think you got the idea of it. “Dragon” is another 11 minute song, mostly with Reed either ranting or reciting poetry. At the three minute mark, Metallica comes in with this great heavy sound. There also some more lovely lyrics: “The hair on your shoulders/The smell of your armpit/The taste of your vulva and everything on it/We all really love you/And you have no meaning”. As weird as those lyrics are, there is some truth in there. The album’s last song, “Junior Dad”, is a nice sounding song. It’s very melodic and soft. However there is one problem with this song: it goes on for 19 MINUTES! I’m not kidding. Go look it up. Reed’s lyrics and singing, however, are pretty good.


            Despite many flaws, Lulu is still a decent album. I know a lot of people hate it and think of it as garbage. Compared to talentless bitches like Miley Cyrus, whiney-ass wussies like Justin Bieber, or computerized shit like almost every rapper does now, Lulu stands out. In fact, I think everyone should at least listen to this album at least once. Both Lou Reed and Metallica have had lows in their careers. Reed had many flops over the years, the biggest probably being 1975’s Metal Machine Music (it’s a double album filled with guitar feedback). Metallica has also experienced releasing some disappointing albums, the most notable probably being 2003’s St. Anger. Overall, Lulu is a listening experience.

Also, I have some recommendations…

To those Metallica fans unfamiliar with Lou Reed’s music…pick up Transformer and Berlin.

To those Lou Reed fans unfamiliar with Metallica’s music…pick up Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets.

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