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Metallica and Lou Reed’s Lulu – first impressions

Much fuss is being made over this new Metallica / Lou Reed collaboration called Lulu. I have to admit, when songs started leaking out, I thought for sure they were just fucking with people. That they’d made goofy tracks to distract people from the monster that the actual album surely would be. Or maybe that’s just what I was hoping.

So, when a buddy sent me a link from their web site for hearing all of the tracks, I jumped on it. There follows my thoughts, typed as I listened…

Brandenburg Gate’s sloppy acoustic intro explodes into a fairly repetitve slow-metal jam. Reed’s beat-poet ramblings are typically weird, and Hetfield’s yelps add little. If this is track one of the album, it’s an odd way to start. Still, I hold out hope it’ll get better…

The View chugs along on a nicely crunchy riff, but only improves with Hetfield’s vocal contributions. Reed is just talking over top of things, never really adding emotion or sense to any of it.

Pumping Blood’s violin intro becomes a cool Metallica stomper with menacing guitar buzz in the background. Reed is still running off at the mouth, but when the riff lets up and becomes a lithe and creeping thing, the song gets more interesting. Wish Lars hadn’t messed up that part with those drum fills. Would have been better if he’d come in when the song called for it. But it builds back up into a promising rush until… it falls apart again. Too much up and down. Either go slow or rock, pick one. Ah, there we go. Pick up the pace and go for it. The music’s great. Wish Reed would shut up, already. And now they’re doubling-timing it, faster faster faster… and back. Nice.

We slide seamlessly into Mistress Dread’s intro, which quickly becomes a furious Metallica ripper. Damn, that’s fast (can Lars manage it?). Oh no, Reed’s trying to sing. So atonal. So… awful. And what the hell is he saying? Oh screw it, he hasn’t said anything of importance yet, it’s all just going past me without sinking in. Who cares what he’s babbling about? You know what this record needs, so far, is a separate release of just the instrumental versions of these songs. That’d be great. Sorry Lou, but on this track you suck and you’re in the way. Maybe he needs to get an orchestra together and re-record this stuff with them. It might work better.

Iced Honey’s riff sounds a little too much like a Metallica-ized “Walk On The Wild Side.” But get past that, and the song is nicely heavy, a jam session track, nothing more. It doesn’t really grow or change. It just bashes along. Hetfield finally sings a bit (in the background) again, if that helps at all.

Cheat On Me has a slow build, sound experiments becoming bass-heavy structure, then add strings… then vocals… and now it’s a song. Is this repetition going to go on for 11 minutes, though? Still listening… around the ten minute mark it starts to feel like it’s going to crash, and thank goodness. Would somebody please answer these guys as to why they “cheat on me?” Please. Stop them from repeating themselves. Please. OK, the last minute or so is interesting, but wow did the rest of it make me tired. Not the best track here. Not even close.

So the next song title is apt, Frustration. Let’s see how it does. Weirdo intro becomes a thrilling riff. Now this sounds great! Turn it up and hope Reed doesn’t sing… oh shit. Well, it would have been better if Hetfield had had a turn. A good heavy song, but I have to admit I’m really getting tired of Reed’s ass by now. OK, OK, just remember this isn’t a Metallica record. This is a diversion, don’t let it get to you… and this is at least the second time on this record Reed has mentioned he feels like a girl. What? And what is this cruddy middle section? Ah, OK, the riff is back. Just listen to the music. And now the weird nothingness part again. Sigh.

Distracted, I’ve looked up some more on this record while this song blathers in the background. According to Amazon, these songs are based on a couple of expressionist plays by some guy. Fine. Looked on as an art project, more of Reed’s ramblings make sense, I guess. But is it something I want to listen to more than once?

Back to Frustration. At the 6:45 mark, things finally begin to rock. I don’t count on it lasting. The rest of the record would indicate it won’t. I can’t get it out of my head that if these riffs had been made into a full-on Metallica release, with more typical lyrics, it would be awesome. Sorry Lou. You’re not doing it for me, on this run-through (so far). Only three track to go.

Little Dog brings back the acoustic intro, Reed rambling on for a full four minutes or so (the band surely getting a coffee) before coming back and adding little but atmospherics. This is pretty weak. I suppose if I were high, this might hold more interest.

Dragon lets Reed babble for another three minutes’-worth of introduction before things get interesting (meaning, insert now-typical Metallica-ish riff here. Wow,Lars plays the same damn thing every time). There are interesting little tidbits in the background here, and as the songs reaches approximately the eight minute-mark, it full-on rocks. Of course it lets up by the end again, basically deconstructing everything the previous ten minutes had created until it all goes away.

And finally we have Junior Dad, which daunts me. It is listed at almost twenty minutes long. Part of me hopes it’s more interesting, with that much room to move and experiment. Or is it over-reaching ambition, a bloated slab of nothingness appended to the rest of this collection of sound experiments? Let’s see…

The intro is more strings with Reed trying to hum along to them. The band joins in. Still light stuff. It’s dragging on a little long now, now the band has disappeared for a while.. wait, is that an accordion? Now the band is back, same things as before. Yawn. As we approach the nine minute mark, things get a bit heavier… OK, I can dig it. And now, after only a couple of minutes, they’re gone again, of course, leaving just that droning thing again. Um, am I meant to be envisioning something here, while this goes on? Because it isn’t working for me. I’m not getting anything. Aaaaand… the last ten minutes this track are a waste. Just an extended session of held, changing notes. Is it meant to put us to sleep? It’s working. Or maybe, since this is about some plays, these last minutes are what’s playing as the audience leaves the theater? Whatever, they could have cut that track in half.

And that’s that.

Well then.

In Sum: Whoa. Lou Reed pasted into Metallica. It doesn’t work. Not really. On one level, sure, I suppose it does. But their sounds are so distinctive that they clash against each other more than they meld at all. It’s more than a little jarring. I hope this is a one-off project.

My buddy Mike says he likes it, that he has a place in his life for music like this. Good on him. And, with all this said, what about me? Well, I’m very grateful for the chance to hear it. Will I run right out and buy it? Of course I will, it’s Metallica. Will I listen to it often? No. Will I play it now and again in the hopes that it might reach me differently, that some mood might make me care more? Of course. Will it eventually click with me and become a favourite? Probably. This is the kind of thing that takes multiple plays to take on a kind of coherent shape in my head. Ask me in six months. I may have a different take altogether and be embarrassed by the preceeding diatribe. Or maybe I’ll stand by it. We’ll see.

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