The pairing is so unusual that one is inclined to immediately react with “Wha?” followed by a gut-checked “It’s gonna suck.”
And after listening to Lulu, I would encourage everyone to listen to their impulse reaction.
I’m curious to hear the responses of people who are admitted fans of this record, true loyalists who find some redeeming value to this project, beyond the canned responses that I’ve been hearing all along. Sure, the making of Lulu may have indeed been a liberating experience for the members of Metallica, but how liberating is it for fans of either artist who already view each new release with a distrusting eye?
Because ultimately, Lulu will have to be defended by them and they should be prepared for a long, arduous journey.
The entire idea of matching Lou Reed with Metallica doesn’t make sense. The band is not known for rubbing shoulders with the avant-garde while Reed isn’t exactly known for running around in thrash circles.
To be polite, the two sound as uncomfortable together on tape as they do in your mind.
At one point during “Pumping Blood,” the band repeats a monotonous guitar figure while Reed barks out the song title, occasionally breaking out into what appear to be verses. One example during the song finds Lou spitting “Waggle my ass like a dog prostitute coagulating heart…Pumping blood…C’mon James!”
He’s encouraging Hetfield because the song–as does most of the album–plods along like a lazy rehearsal. No interesting riffs arrive and Lars Ulrich tentatively drums the whole mess into nothing. There’s huge holes in some of his parts suggesting that he could have been replaced by Mo Tucker and Lulu would have least sounded rhythmically appealing.
There are no solos for Kirk Hammett in Lulu and I could hear no evidence that he wanted to get his feet wet with any real weirdness to break up the endless parade of jug-jug-jugs and big chord bridges. At some points, and I don’t know if it’s James or Kirk playing, you can hear someone pick up an acoustic guitar and start playing like they have no idea what they’re supposed to be doing.
And if you turn the volume up as loud as you can on Lulu, you may be able to hear the voice of bassist Robert Trujillo muttering under his breath “What the fuck am I doing here? I wonder if I can get my gig with Suicidal Tendencies back?”
There’s something going on with Reed’s mouth too, and you can hear it throughout the record. I mean, if you’re intending for Lulu to be powerful, provocative, right?! He sounds like an old man with a lazy drawl. Hard consonants are a challenge for Lou and when he musters enough strength to scream, it sounds as though he’s merely shaking free a bunch of mucus in the back of his throat. “I want so much to hurtcha!” he threatens on “Frustration” with about as much menace as a grandpa trying to figure out how to work the remote.
There are moments where you can audibly hear Lou breathing through his nose, further suggesting the grandpa factor.
But the ground zero of shittyness is the lyrics that Reed attempts to spew out. He’s prominent in the mix, giving listeners a good glimpse of his parade of crap. There are moments when you’re jaw will drop in shock (“You’re more man than I/To be dead to have no feeling/To be dry and spermless/Like a girl/Like a girl!”). There are moments when your mouth will just be agape while your head shakes in disbelief (“The taste of your vulva…and everything on it!”). And there are moments where you’ll just blurt out in laughter (“The female dog don’t care what you got/As long as you can raise that little doggie face/To a cold-hearted pussy”).
It sounds like an improvisational affair, a project initiated on a whim while becoming a permanent artifact will be remembered as nothing more than a “What the fuck?!” moment. Generations will ponder it, and you may even find a few weirdoes in the corner that will defend this moment.
Ignore them. There’s nothing remotely redeeming here.
Lulu is something that may have indeed been something therapeutic for those involved, and it may even hold a special place in their heart. But that doesn’t mean it should have been offered a legitimate release date. It’s something that should have left to the vaults, a curio whose legend grows from its own silence.
Unfortunately, it’s here. It’s real. And it’s awful.