Album Review: Lou Reed and Metallica, Lulu

By Scott Kara

Lou reed's collaboration with Metallica on Lulu isn't always a success. Photo / Supplied
Lou reed's collaboration with Metallica on Lulu isn't always a success. Photo / Supplied

There have been some dodgy, not to mention forgettable, musical collaborations over the years. The Girl is Mine and Dancing in the Street to name two, but at least Jacko and Sir Paul, and Mick Jagger and David Bowie had the courtesy to stick to doing just one (or two) tracks. Lou Reed and Metallica have gone and done a whole album together - and the result is difficult, hard-going, and often harrowing listening.

Sometimes, when it comes to these two acts especially, harrowing can be a good - or, at the very least, fascinating - thing. More than 20 years on, Metallica's One remains a beautifully brutal and uncompromising listen (even though it's as catchy as hell too), and one of music's ultimate challenges is wrapping your ears around Reed's 1975 double album Metal Machine Music.

Yes, it's easy to put the boot into these two big names of music, but while this oddball pairing coming together on Lulu might sound intriguing on paper, in reality it is incongruous and doesn't work.

But Metallica are metal's mega band and Reed is one of the most revered rebels in music, so they can both do what ever the hell they like. And there needs to be more enterprise and willingness to try something different in music these days - even if there's no guarantee it will be a success.

It was Reed's idea to collaborate with Metallica, apparently. They had teamed up to play Velvet Underground's Sweet Jane and White Light/White Heat at the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame 25th anniversary concert in 2009 - and the plan to work together was broached then. Lulu was eventually recorded over 10 days in the middle of this year.

Opener Brandenburg Gate is musically grand and dynamic, but the grizzly, gruff-meets-grumpy and dead-beat lilts of James Hetfield and Reed respectively sound like the mad, disoriented mutterings of two old men. Then The View lumbers along with deathly, dour riffs and Reed rambling over the top; if it took off with some power and might when Hetfield comes in with his "I am the table. I am the ..." lines, then it could have been saved.

Pumping Blood is fearsome, as it agitates and brews into a bludgeoning and frenzied metal squall. But be warned, Reed's beseeching rants are all over it.

There is more galloping thrash on Mistress Dread, and in complete contrast the sweet brood and sprawl of 19-minute final track Junior Dad is serene and beautiful, if a little aimless.

It's some of the album's more eerie, almost ambient, moments that are its most memorable, like the symphonic build-up and then thrumming groove of Cheat On Me (with Reed sounding like a mix of Ian Curtis, Johnny Cash and Mark E. Smith rather than himself).

Ultimately though, the majority of Metallica fans will be likely waiting for the instrumental version of the album, and Reed fans will be, well, they might be in need of some White Light/White Heat therapy after hearing this. Or in extreme cases perhaps a fix of Metal Machine Music is best.

Stars: 2/5
Verdict: Hard going and occasionally unlistenable


- NZ Herald

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