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Metallica - Metallica & Lou Reed: Lulu CD (album) cover




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2.08 | 219 ratings

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3 stars If there's been an album released this year that's been more controversial than this, then I'm yet to hear of it. Lou Reed and Metallica! Surely not? Well after all the speculation of the last few months we can finally judge it for ourselves and to be honest it's not bad at all. Strangely, I feel the biggest objection to this may come from the diehard Metallica and Reed fans that in the main are probably poles apart in terms of musical preferences. The rest of us who are willing to approach it with an open mind may just discover something worthwhile. That's not to say that it's going to be to everyone's taste. Lulu is far from an easy listen and I imagine attract admirers and detractors in equal measure.

The concept of Lulu, which not surprisingly comes from Reed is based on works of Frank Wedekind, the German Expressionist whose plays explored sexual issues which were considered to far exceed the boundaries of decency at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century. The two plays in question are Erdgeist (Earth Spirit) and Die Buchse Der Pandora (Pandora's Box) which tell the story of a German dancer who after rising in society down to her relationships with men of wealth eventually falls into prostitution where she even runs into Jack The Ripper. Such a dark concept requires equally dark music and this is where Metallica come in. What on the face of it may appear a totally unlikely workable collaboration actually makes perfect sense. Metallica for a band at the forefront of ground breaking metal haven't, let's face it, done anything ground breaking for many, many years. This somewhat redresses the balance. The music here is incredibly heavy and dark, no doubt seeming more so by bearing the concept in mind. It's recognisably Metallica and yet it's not. Here, no doubt to allow Reed's storytelling to take full fruition they are happy to lock into a repetitive groove, sometimes accompanied by a haunting drone which in its relentlessness at times becomes more disturbing and powerful as a consequence.

The greatest challenge to Metallica fans I imagine will be having Reed replace James Hetfield on vocals. He does sing here, in a secondary role and to be honest doesn't add anything worthwhile. Reed fans already familiar with his often spoken word delivery may have fewer problems. There's none of the crooning here from Reed that those only familiar with his hit Perfect Day will have heard. He does sing at times, yet without any discernible melody and is more prone to go for his spoken delivery which in view of the subject matter makes better sense. His lyrics are certainly graphic, occasionally cringe worthy as he chants "spermless like a girl" on Frustration for example. You won't want to play it when your Granny comes round for tea.

It's a long album, just a bit too long at eighty seven minutes to fit onto a single Cd. Not surprisingly for such a long album it does stumble from time to time - Little Dog is dreadful as Reed talks over a structure-less and tuneless acoustic guitar backed drone and as a whole the first disc works better than the second being less prone to aimless wandering. The longest track on the album, Junior Dad is twenty minutes long and on a musical level one of the mellower pieces here on the whole. It does outstay its welcome somewhat however, the second half being a string section driven drone bringing to mind Reed's first band The Velvet Underground.

Overall, despite its flaws Lulu is a very worthwhile project with moments of brilliance, mainly on the first disc which generally has the shorter songs giving less opportunity for noodling. Tracks such as The View, Pumping Blood and Mistress Dread which come in quick succession are truly captivating in their delivery but the weaker moments take away any chance of this becoming an essential piece of work. Already Reed is talking of wanting to collaborate again with Metallica. I await with interest. 3 stars.

Nightfly | 3/5 |


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