Music Reviews

posted: November 1, 2011

Lou Reed and Metallica Lulu

WB CD or 3LP
Lou Reed and Metallica

Early on in this ill-advised yet much-hyped collaboration, Lou Reed offers up what must have been the overriding mindset during the recording sessions that spawned this miserable album: “There is no time for guilt or second guessing.”

It’s clear from listening to this project, which finds former thrash masters Metallica serving up an array of turgid, by-the-numbers riffs while Reed recites lyrics that read like the rejected Penthouse Forum letters of a creepy sociopath, that no one involved gave pause to consider what exactly it was they were trying to accomplish. How else to explain a song like “The View”—admittedly not among the five or six most egregious efforts here—on which Metallica
singer James Hetfield repeatedly howls “I am the table.”

Elsewhere, the famously pugnacious Reed takes center stage, delivering an assortment of cringe-worthy, spoken-word bon mots in his graveled timbre, rasping: “I swallow your sharpest curdle like a colored man’s dick”; “Spermless like a girl”; “If I waggle my ass like a dark prostitute would you think less of me and my coagulating heart?”

Uhh, right. Can we get back to Hetfield’s philosophical carpentry talk now?

What it lacks in quality, Lulu makes up for in sheer, unforgiving length. Clocking in at nearly 90 minutes, the album runs longer than most feature-length films, and you feel the weight of every second during molasses-slow tracks like the eight-minute-plus “Little Dog.”

Indeed, it’s difficult to think of a more unlistenable musical pairing. Maybe Kurt Cobain and author William S. Burroughs on The “Priest” They Called Him? But even that drug-induced guitar squall/beat-poet collaboration spawned a great quote from the Nirvana frontman. Asked about his playing on the recording, Cobain simply said, “I just masturbated for 20 minutes.” If someone posed the same question to Reed, he’d likely respond with a 40-minute dissertation on human sexuality and German expressionism (the project, after all, is inspired in large part by German expressionist author Frank Wedekind). As far as “super groups” go, Loutallica (or is it Metallica Machine Music?) makes Chickenfoot sound like goddamn Temple of the Dog.

In a small bit of redemption, the album does manage to close on a slightly positive note with the orchestral “Junior Dad,” although I feel saying so is a bit like praising the cup of coffee at the close of a bad meal because the waitress managed to get it to you hot.

When it comes right down to it, it’s not at all surprising that the combination doesn’t work. When the concept was announced—Lou Reed and Metallica collaborate on a batch of songs inspired by a German expressionist—only a small subset of Reed obsessives clutching dog-eared copies of Metal Machine Music and one national magazine held out any hope that this thing would work. What we got is what virtually everyone else expected: A Reed/Metallica Human Centipede as horrifying as that movie’s unholy creation. Now please, god, somebody kill it

–Andy Downing