Review: Lulu (Metallica and Lou Reed)

I don’t normally review CDs, but there’s really nothing normal about Lulu either. It’s not Metallica. It’s not Lou Reed. Yet it’s both.

NOTE: This is a review of the online version offered for streaming through the Lulu website.

The first thing you have to understand going in is that this isn’t really music. There are a few melodic moments, but for the most part Metallica sets the atmosphere for Lou Reed’s spoken word album.

I’m not going to break down each track. Some are catchier than others. Pumping Blood and Mistress Dread feature Metallica at its most ferocious, though the main riff for Mistress Dread shares a lot in common with Metallica’s Trapped Under Ice. Iced Honey and Cheat on Me share more in common with Load-era Metallica.

You can find bits and pieces of Metallica’s past through out each offering. But fans of the band are going to be very disappointed if they expect to be satisfied musically by the effort. As I said, this is a lot more spoken word than music.

Will you like Lulu? It depends on how you view Metallica and Lou Reed. Do you view them as musicians or artists? If you land on the musician side, you’re not going to like it. You’ll start to skip through songs around Pumping Blood and by Cheat on Me you’ll be eager for it to be over.

If you value you the artistic side, you’ll want to cut off all your lights, close your eyes and enjoy a bit of poetry over a metal soundscape.

Does it work?

Art’s value depends on what you bring to the table with you when you digest it. I thought Reed’s voice was out of place. Then again, with the subject matter it kind of makes sense for there to be an underlying irritation to the work. You shouldn’t feel comfortable listening to it.

The riff work behind the poetry is monotonous. Each riff is repeated well beyond what is necessary, and beneath those measures a steady guitar wail or stream of feedback is usually tying it all together. It feels almost like an early morning dream where a friend is telling you a story with music on in the background. Yet the music just happens to wrap around his words enough to make sense.

Consider Mistress Dread. This is the track every Metallica fan will enjoy for about two minutes. It’s some of the bands heaviest, fastest work, period. However, it goes on for six minutes or so with Lou talking over most of it. Like I said, this is art not music.

You will not hum Lulu in the car. You will not throw it on at a party. There will be no good friendly violent fun. Maybe you’ll read the lyrics and take a journey through untested territory.

Lulu is the product of what happens when a band plays whatever the Hell it wants to play. That has been essential Metallica from day one, and fans who understand that will accept Lulu for what it is. You don’t have to like it. You don’t have to buy it. But it is worth respect for what it is intended to be.

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