After watching Lou Reed and Metallica perform Sweet Jane and White Light/White Heat at the 25th Anniversary Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame concert back in '09, it didn't seem outright surprising when it was announced that both legendary artists would be collaborating in the studio.
What's surprising though is the subject matter they chose to tackle in their first album (and a concept one) together. Get this: the songs of Lulu are based on two early 20th century plays (Earth Spirit and Pandora's Box) by German expressionist, Frank Wedekind, and they tell the story of Lulu, a doomed prostitute. From the start I had a feeling this whole thing could be the most brilliant idea or it could be the worst idea ever. After hearing Lulu the first time through, I have to say it's not exactly brilliant, it's just plain alright.
The music is relentless most of the time; the sheer force of Metallica's signature sounds grabs you by the collar and forces you in. While I don't have issues with James Hetfield's singing, I can't help but feel irritated whenever his voice comes up. But Lou Reed is the 'star' here, and Lou is being his usual self. His awkward phrasing and talk-singing didn't put me off at all; and I think that's what I like about the album.
The lyrics are dark and violent and sadistic; all the hateful emotions you can imagine all present in these songs. And the songs are long, spread over two discs. Some of the songwriting was pretty laughable at first listen, but after a second and third time through, I found myself more creeped out than amused.
I think there are only two or three songs (Iced Honey, Cheat On Me) here where most of us will find 'normal'. The closing Junior Dad, is weird, kinda like a thorn among the roses. It's almost twenty minutes long -- the first part is classic Lou, then Metallica stops playing halfway through, and then it's just a sea of strings all the way till fade out. I can't fathom that.
Reviews have been very mixed on this one -- dreadful, horrific, utter crap are what many have described it. People don't know what to make of it, and that's totally understandable. Because it's not so much of a collaboration as it is two artists doing their own thing, not really moving out of their comfort zone, so to speak. But put them together and the end results are unique, avant garde heavy metal, and I dig it for the most part.
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