When I heard about the collaboration between Lou Reed and Metallica back in June, I was ecstatic. The reigning king of avant-garde art rock and the biggest heavy metal band in the world; let’s see what they can do. The pair have performed well together in the past. At the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 25th Anniversary Concert, they played brilliant reworkings of “Sweet Jane” and “White Light/White Heat,” songs Reed had previously released with The Velvet Underground. My expectations were high for this album, especially after Reed described it as, “The best thing done by anyone ever.”
I must confess, when I finally popped the disc into my computer on November 1st, the day the album came out, I did not quite expect was a bit surprised.
Lulu is not what I expected, which does not mean the album is not good. The analogy I draw is that “Lulu,” will be a lot like the film, “The Tree of Life.” Some people will love the album and totally get it, while the majority will dismiss it as “artistic sludge,” as another reviewer of the album put it.
The strength of Lulu is Metallica’s masterly crafted music. The riffs, grooves, and thrashing climaxes fit the songs perfectly. The music reflects the emotions of the songs, showing Metallica’s strength of musicianship. There are segments of Master of Puppets or Death Magnetic style heavy thrash riffs; songs that encourage heavy head banging. This is best expressed in “Pumping Blood,” which opens with a skull-pounding power chord riff that perfectly complements Reed’s vocals. The track that shows the greatest diversity of sound, and in my opinion is Lulu’s best track, is “Cheat on Me.” This eleven-and-a-half minute song, which closes disc one, opens with Reed playing an organ-like Continuum, accentuated by a soft, yet creepy string arrangement. The dark beauty of this piece continues as Robert Trujillo’s bass slowly creeps in, playing one note every few seconds, before eerily echoing clean guitars come in. The music continues like this as Reed asks the listener, “Why do I cheat, Why do I cheat on me?” The song switches between this softer part, with a palm-muted steady guitar riff, and a louder, crashing drum, distorted guitar riff that comes when James Hetfield asks us the same questions Reed did.
By far though, the album’s most beautiful track is the closing song of disc two, the nineteen-and-a-half minute epic, Junior Dad. This song gained fame on the internet when, in August, several music sites reported that James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett of Metallica were both reduced to tears while recording, due to the song’s lyrics. The brightness of the music gives the album an epic feel, with the end conjuring the image of a rising sun; a song that, despite its sadness, shows us that there is hope in the world.
- Originally published on The Rotation, WGTB Georgetown Radio's Music Blog, on 11/09/11
- This article has been edited since its original publication