Lou Reed and Metallica's Lulu: A First Listen

Categories: First Listens

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What pisses me off is not that Lou Reed is collaborating with one of the more overrated bands of my lifetime, or doing his batshit Lou Reed thing (I rather enjoy his batshit Lou Reed thing) -- it's that he hasn't made a normal record since Ecstasy, one of my favorites of that year. Animal Serenade was live, with fucking Antony to boot (I hate Antony), and I was admittedly too scared to play two discs of The Raven. When Metal Machine Music drained the color from fans' faces in 1975, they only had to wait a year or so for Coney Island Baby and Street Hassle (and eventually the way-better Blue Mask and New Sensations) to make it up. Meanwhile, I've had to settle for his top form to be feedback-décor on Laurie Anderson's "Only an Expert." But 11 years after the last great Lou album, 18-minute possum odyssey and all, in a not-great year for guitar bands, I will take what I can get. Here's Lulu. Give me a beer.

"Brandenburg Gate"
Acoustic guitar, cool! This doesn't sound amusical yet. Then holy shit, the first line: "I would cut my legs and tits off when I think of Boris Karloff." The last thing Reed says is "wouldn't it be lovely" before Metallica comes ramming in, with both James Hetfield and Lou Reed fighting over the phrase "small town girl," though only the manlier Reed dares to slip in "I'm the small town girl." Listenable!

"The View"
I hated this when it premiered, and Reed's talking still barely relates to the music beneath it. The riff's a little cooler than I remembered, but Metallica's guitar tone is still dogshit and Lars' dick-footed drumming is never fun to listen to. At least those are usually paired with an attempt at melody. Oh, but here comes Hetfield: "I am the root/ I am the progress," god, shut up. The first song kind of stuck to a three-chord power ballad thing, which helped, but this one needs any kind of change and it never gets it.

"Pumping Blood"
Violin, ha. This one's kind of cool, though. Sixteen minutes of this album is definitely better than 15 minutes of that Trash Talk EP. Okay, maybe not. If Lou's just gonna babble and moan the title for a bit and ruin the crunch... ugh. "Off the pump/ Off the thing/ The blood that I'm pumping away/ If I pump blood in the sunshine" -- this is just so bad. "Will you adore the river?" What does that mean, Lou? The music's all clean now, and Lars Ulrich is basically in a separate room jamming with himself. "Am I coagulating hard?" it sounds like Lou just asked. To be honest, no.

"Mistress Dread"
All right, finally some thrash! Just the fact that this track has some control and verve to it -- as opposed to the loose jammy sound beefed up with string overdubs -- makes it better than the last two. Lou's contribution is the worst so far though, because now he's trying to sing and it's completely atonal. Scream something! And, "I'm a woman who likes men" -- we get it already! Small town girl! At least Hetfield's not interjecting with some bullshit to double-ruin the riff. Can't believe how long this is.

"Iced Honey"
Whoa, an actual song! A good song! And it's actually sung not spoken! "Iced Honey" is actually very good, and not only that, it actually sounds like the Velvet Underground, circa ultra-scuzzy "Sister Ray." With expected crunch, too. Too bad this totally digestible song is the second-shortest on the disc; that is, too bad the next five songs are 11:26, 8:33, 8:01, 11:10 and, oh god, 19:28. But I'd listen to this song voluntarily, even though James occasionally comes in to "harmonize."

"Cheat on Me"
We begin disc two. Why is there a disc two? I never really understood how rich Lou Reed is; doesn't he lose money on these projects? And didn't the Velvets make squat? When exactly was Lou Reed at his highest financial game, "Walk on the Wild Side?" Velvet's 1993 reunion tour? This year's Metallica collaboration with accumulated reissue wealth? Anyway, my mind's wandering, because this song's absolutely pointless, unless you're as interested as Reed (and built-in flunkie Hetfield) are in the question "Why do I cheat on me? Why do I cheat on myself?" ("I really got nobody else").

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Alan Scherstuhl
Alan Scherstuhl

Since you're the only critic anywhere who appreciates late Liz Phair and the towering "Ecstasy," I hereby agree with every sentiment you ever express about anything. 

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